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Harry Potter Exhibition and Inspiration from J.K.Rowling

 

Yesterday, I went to the Harry Potter exhibition at the British Library. As a massive fan of the books, I was immensely looking forward to it.

No photos, as photography wasn’t permitted, but if you are a Harry Potter fan and able to go then I would recommend it.

The exhibition is beautifully curated, and as one would expect from the British Library, very well done. It’s called A History of Magic, and you can see on display, many original manuscripts that relate to the concepts discussed within the Harry Potter books, such as the Philosopher’s stone, a bezoar, potions, and even broomsticks and cauldrons.

Several interactive elements allow the visitor to brew a potion (mine failed, so the Night Goblins are going to continue attacking), read your fortune through Tarot cards, and look into the crystal ball.

There are beautiful illustrations by Jim Kay who designed some of the artwork for the book covers. There was, in short, considerable interesting material.

But my favourites – and the reason I booked this exhibition – was to see J. K. Rowling’s original manuscripts. There was the first page of the synopsis of her first book that she submitted to publishers. There were annotated drafts of printed manuscripts at edit stage, including some scenes and earlier versions of stories that never made it to the final cut.

There were plot sheets, basically hand-written spreadsheets where Rowling planned out her stories. One page of it from Order of the Phoenix has been well-circulated over the years on the internet. But to see that, and a few others in person was incredible.

There was an annotated copy of the first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone which Rowling annotated with her thoughts on why she wrote etc. to raise money for charity. Only the first page is visible on the display, but I would love to read her annotations in their entirety.

As I went through that exhibit, it became more clear how many years of work went into making this Wizarding World as real as it is, and how much effort and planning and thinking and edits it took to make the stories as rich as they are.

As I looked at the edit notes, I was comforted to see that Rowling also did all the “menial” work as I am doing right now, and which sometimes frustrates me. Having to edit and re-edit, and rethink. Knowing the richness and depth of a story in your own head, but wanting to make it come alive on the page when it just isn’t living up to your standards.

It was a relief, to be honest. It was a feeling of kinship, and of hope. That it’s okay. That while some people may just write pretty perfect first drafts (very few I think), most people don’t, and that it’s okay. It doesn’t mean you suck as a writer. It just means that’s how you work, that’s how you mine ideas, and that’s how you polish.

I wish I had been able to take photos of some of that stuff, just to remind me when I am having doubts. But that’s what this blog post is for. To remember. And to remind the rest of you who may also struggle with that from time to time, when the book you want to write is just isn’t coming together, and when you question whether you are good enough.

Keep writing that story. Keep working at it. Finish.

You can do it.

Whether or not you like Harry Potter is irrelevant. Rowling’s story is that of hard work and grit. And as writers, we can all take inspiration from that.

 

Post Event Write-Up: Great Writing Conference – Imperial College, London

 

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Last weekend, on July 1st and 2nd, I attended my first ever Great Writing conference at the Imperial College in London. This was the 20th anniversary of this event, and I found out about it late last year, so I am a tad behind. But better late than never.

The fact that it was in London was a massive plus point for me. Conferences, especially due to hotel bills, can become very expensive. Especially as I don’t have a university behind me, footing the bill. So it was great to just attend the full conference, but still be able to go home in the evenings without much hassle.

So about the conference:

In a nutshell, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Arrived at 8:30 am on Saturday morning to register, and then after the 9 am introduction, the conference was in a full flow, with multiple streams of panels running at the same time. As is always the case with these events, it’s difficult to choose because there is so much interesting material. 

It’s also about the people. Sometimes you go to panels because you are familiar with someone’s work, or they are your friends or good acquaintance. Sometimes you just happen to get chatting to people at the conference and go to their sessions to support, as well as learn more about  them. 

My panel selections were a combination of all of the above. 

On Saturday, I attended panels that included topics as wide ranging as a permaculture travel memoir, finding authentic voice, writing and performing identity, transmedia storytelling, a paper on interplay of text and images in contemporary essay, as well as exploration of real-world choices in the movie Arrival. 

I chaired a session of three panels, which were:

The Teacher-Effect: Poets who took, borrowed and stole from teachers of influence by Jen Webb

Articulate Walls: Writer’s Block and the Academic Creative Practitioner by Marshall Moore

Teaching the Wisdom of Uncertainty by Karen Stevens.

My three presenters were from different countries, bringing in different perspectives. That’s one of the most fascinating things about an international conference, that you do get a true mix of people, and a range of perspectives. There were people there from the UK, the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Finland, Northern Ireland…and these are just the people I spoke to. But even that covers a considerable geographical ground. 

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On Sunday, I took advantage of living in London and made my leisurely way, joining from 10:30 onward. One of the first sessions of panels I attended was one that created a bit of a discussion, because it included a paper on Writing about Sex, by Malachi O’ Doherty, a journalist and a writer from Belfast. 

After lunch, I presented my paper, “Miss You’ve A White Name” which was well received, and also got me into some wonderful discussions, including an issue of cultural appropriation and I ended up making new acquaintances. 

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After more chats, and more thoughtful presentations, and closing brief by Professor Graeme Harper who organises the conference, the 20th Great Writing Conference officially came to an end. Some people would stay on to go to the pub. I chose to make my way home, talking to one of the other attendees at the conference, as we made our way to the tube station by walking through the gorgeous Kensington Palace Gardens on a beautiful, sunny day in London. 

It was the perfect end to what had been a quite stimulating weekend. 

I am already looking forward to attending the Great Writing Conference next year.

 

Upcoming events

My apologies for the lack of frequent updates. It’s been a hell of a year already. Every month has brought about changes and challenges, and even half-way through the year, anything is barely settled. It’s not all bad. Challenges are tough, but usually they result in changes for the better.

My writing progress ebbs and flows right now, but here are some updates on various events I am going to be attending this summer:

July 1, 2 – Great Writing International Creative Writing Conference

I will be presenting a paper, “Miss You’ve A White Name” at the conference taking place at the Imperial College, London.

July 7 – BFS Social

British Fantasy Society has a social in London, so if you are there come say hi.

July 29, 30 – Creative Bridges Conference, Bristol

Creative Bridges is a conference about Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes. I will be running my Meet Your Muse workshop there.

August 4, 5, 6 – Nine Worlds

I am excited about attending my very first Nine Worlds. Final schedule is yet to be confirmed, but I should be moderating two panels there.

August 21 – BristolConFringe

I will be reading a story at BristolConFringe in August, so if you are in the area, join us for this fantastic, free event.

 

Book Launch Report – The Dark Half of the Year

 

Image may contain: 1 person, standingTime does run away when you are being busy, which all of January, I’ve been. So it’s taken me 8 days to report back on the book launch that took place on January 28th in Bristol.

We launched this gorgeous book, The Dark Half the Year, which is an anthology of ghost stories set on particular winter days. It’s a collective effort from the North Bristol Writers. I’m thrilled to be in it. My story, The Ancestors, is set on Diwali when Asha has to confront her ghosts. 

The launch was great, very well organised, and in a great venue. Thomas David Parker, found us an event room in the Royal Navy Volunteer pub. A cosy little venue with the right amount of charm, and of course drinks. Thomas, who is also one of the authors in the book, acted as our host for the afternoon.  He interviewed the editors, Ian Milstead and Pete Sutton on how the book came to be. We also had some readings. Then myself and three others were interviewed about our stories. (You can watch mini-clips of my interview on my YouTube channel) This followed by more readings, and then a panel about ghosts. So it was a very ghostly, but fun afternoon. 

At book signings, we are happy to report, we sold out. Books were signed. Fun was had. I had a chance to catch up with all my lovely friends and colleagues in Bristol. All in all, a good day out. 

And if you haven’t got a copy of Dark Half of the Year yet, it’s now available on Amazon

Book Launch: The Dark Half of the Year (You are Invited!)

 

 

We need something to do during the cold, dreary winter days. What better than to read? Even more importantly, read stories that are set during specific winter days around the world, focusing on what lies in the shadows. 

The Dark Half of the Year is an anthology by North Bristol Writers. Since I used to live in Bristol at one point, apparently, I still count. That’s a good thing for me, as the anthology also includes one of my short stories, The Ancestors.

We’re having a book launch on January 28th in Bristol, and you are invited. It’s going to be fun few hours, with interviews, reading, and a panel. And of course mingling, talking about ghosts and fantasy over pints – because as it happens writers and alcohol aren’t too far apart. I don’t count, because I’m a bit strange (even for a writer), and pretty convinced that there is coffee in my blood. 

The launch event will start at 4 pm at The Famous Royal Navy Volunteer pub. You can join in the event on Facebook if you are interested in attending.

Please do spread the word. 

Look forward to see you in Bristol.

BristolCon 2016 – A fabulous day with fabulous people!

On Saturday 29th, I departed my house at an ungodly hour of 6:30 am to go to Bristol. The Great Western Railway terminated the train unexpectedly at Reading (under mysterious circumstances), so instead of reaching Bristol at 10:00, I eventually got there at 11:15. Putting aside the fact that I could’ve been in another country by then, it was annoying to have missed almost the whole morning programme.

So, I proceeded straight to the Break Room & Coffee, for much needed caffeine and just starting to socialize with all the lovely people I hadn’t seen for a while. In fact, as it turned out, this particular BristolCon experience revolved very much around just mingling, which was great. 

BristolCon is one of the smaller conventions, but even so, not only I didn’t get enough time to chat to a lot of people, completely missed the others. So it’s not that small. 

But I did do things besides chatting: I was on a “Murderous Women” panel (okay, talking) about how/if GrimDark has different perception/expectations of women authors than crime or horror. On the panel with me were Anna Smith-Spark, Jonathan L. Howard (who is the Guest of Honour at BristolCon 2017 by the way), and David Gullen. 

I also attended Kevlin Henney’s flash fiction workshop, which was really great fun. Kevlin, an accomplished flash fiction author, led us through the workshop, giving us plenty of tips in 45 minutes, and we even ended up creating some stories of our own. (Though in my case, not very good ones). 

After that, Dev Agarwal and I ran the Stage Managed Fighting workshop, which was really about accurate and interesting depiction of fighting in our stories. We were pleased to have a full house. Dev supplied the information and props, led the workshop with extreme competence and his years of martial arts experience. I was the lowly but glamorous assistant, and spent the workshop either being punched or punching (obviously the latter was more fun), and making faces at GR Matthews. I got told earlier that for a moment when I’d the boxing pad on, apparently I also had the “resting bitch face” which is fabulous, because looking like a mean boxer is the height of accomplishment for someone who is essentially an ever-smiling chatterbox! 

Most of the time then was spent sitting at the bar, which considering I don’t drink, just sounds weird. I had fascinating chats with a whole bunch of people, including Gaie Sebold with whom I’m thrilled to share an anthology (Fight Like A Girl, now available from all good booksellers), and her partner David Gullen (who I shared the Murderous Women panel with, and we got on brilliantly despite him covering up my name tag with his momentarily). Of course the wonderful GR Matthews and James Latimar, my online conversation buddies were a delight as usual. I also spent a long while talking to Richard Bendell, a fellow Stargate Fan, about music, religion, and great many other things. One of my highlight was seeing a guy dressed in Stargate SG-1 uniform. Dean, you’ve inspired me to do my own cosplay. Finally! 

MEG was her amazing organised self, and I’m pleased to hear that she will be chairing BristolCon 2017, though it is sad that Jo Hall is stepping down. Jo’s been absolutely amazing running the con. On a personal level, she was the first person to take me under her wing in the SFF world and for that she shall forever remain special. But Jo and Roz have wonderful adventures of their own planned, and I wish them both good luck. 

 

One of the first person I got to chat with at the con was Claire Carter, who is challenging her own artistic limits. I am sure we can expect to see great things from her as she continues to grow on her artistic path. I only managed to see Sammy HK Smith briefly, and Simeon Beresford – with whom a catch-up is certainly needed. Only managed to say hello to Cheryl Morgan, T. O. Munro, and Joel Cornah. Amanda Beecham was nice enough to bring me a cookie. Got some quality time at lunch with Dev Agarwal and Piotr Swietlik. A very brief catch-up with Dr. Bob. I have no doubt I’m missing great many people off this list, but suffice to say, that it was a wonderful event with lovely people.

Of course this adventure didn’t end there. The next morning, I managed to have a short session again with Nick Walters (and met Belinda the bicycle), GR Matthews, and Jo Hall. I also met RB Watkinson and her husband Paul. So even the post-con morning didn’t go without making new friends. 

I’ve of course already signed up for BristolCon 2017, and am already looking forward to attending. 

BristolCon 2016 – Come Say Hello!

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On October 29th, we will be gathering in Bristol once more for the annual Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention, BristolCon. If you’ve never been, it’s a fantastic event. Unlike most convention, it is only a single day event, thus a lot of less tiring and way cheaper, but still full of lots of fun and really cool people. So if you happen to be a fantasy/sci-fi reader and in vicinity of Bristol, check it out.

At 15:00, I will be on a panel with Anna smith-Spark, Jonathan L. Howard and David Gullen, discussing “Murderous Women” which will hopefully be as fascinating as it sounds. We will be talking about why attitudes to what women want and what women are expected to deliver vary in different genres. Amanda Kear will be moderating us and keeping us under control. 

To then get completely out of control (kind of), at 17:00 I will be Dev Agarwal’s glamourous assistant in a “Stage Managed Fighting” workshop. We’ll give some demonstrations and look at how fight scenes can add depth to the story. 

There will of course be general shannanigans, cake, book launch, book buying, socialising and a quiz! Meeting up with old friends and making new ones is also all in day’s work. If you have never been to a convention before, BristolCon is a great first. If you are a regular, I look forward to see you. You can buy the tickets at the door, or just click on this link and buy them in advance.