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Island Life, Word Birds & Process #27

It’s that time of year, when secrets abound: surprises for our beloveds & the annual trick of keeping them from bright-eyed children. It’s a magical time & I’m a big fan of these sorts of secrets. There are other kinds too – the ones as writers we hold onto for fear the sharing of them might diminish our power. The tricks & stratagems we employ hoping to facilitate better writing that may perhaps give us an edge on the competition.

Yesterday, in my guise as author, I attended a local Christmas Fair in Llanfair Clydogau, a small village four miles from Lampeter. I signed & sold copies of Ghostbird to lovely people from my community. Two Welsh women in particular whose knowledge of the myth of Blodeuwedd (the thread running through the story) was as good if not better than my own.

I also spoke to a couple of yet to be published writers, both of whom were curious to know about aspects of writing, from how to maintain the discipline to how traditional publishing works. Both were genuinely interested, charming & committed. I found myself happily sharing information & even, in the case of one of them, giving up a couple of ‘secrets’ which in my view is different from offering advice. Her reaction to one was such – ‘Oh, I’d never have thought of that, how clever!’ – I realised I didn’t mind sharing. (It’s not like I made it up all by myself – I’ve never heard of it before but I bet there are loads of authors who give their characters birth signs, the better to understand them.)

I never offer advice on writing. Hello? One book published – how does that make me an expert? What I do say to anyone who genuinely wants to know is the following. Never use the word aspiring. Unless they are professional editors, never assume your family & friends can edit. They are your family & friends; they’re supposed to think you are brilliant. It’s their job to tell you your shopping lists are worthy of publication. Pay for the real thing! And don’t assume you have to self-publish first – buy a copy of Writers & Artists’ Yearbook & think big!

This is borderline advice I suppose – hey – they asked me.

Writing secrets are different. I had another chat with a talented artist, Claire Parsons. (You can find her work here.) We discussed the merits of sharing creative tricks of the trade. She mentioned a particular technique she had shown a fellow artist & how grateful he had been for the insight. (I mentioned my other favourite tip: when embarking on your first line edit, change the font.)

As I paid Claire for one of her gorgeous cards she said, ‘The thing is, nothing’s a secret.’

I thought about the seasonal secrets I’m keeping but knew, Claire didn’t mean that. Over the past few years I’ve learned a huge amount about my craft from numerous generous & gifted writers & editors. Surely, if we are fortunate enough to be taught by talented mentors, we ought to be happy to share the knowledge?


Llanfair Clydogau
Claire Parson