The Postcard Challenge Update

At the recent first ever Scarborough Flare Festival, where local artistes (artists/musicians/actors/poets/authors) wowed audiences with their amazing talents, I ran an event called The Postcard Challenge, advertised via my social networks and flyer handouts.   This was an invitation to all passersby – whether they were going to an event at the Festival or not – to be encouraged to write on a postcard about a moment that had taken their breath away.

As most of you who live in Scarborough will know, this was a great success and the display was chockablock with breathtaking moments by the end of the 4-day Scarborough Flare Festival (the heart of The Scarborough Book Festival 2014).

I am currently working on the preparation of a slide show of the postcards… to share with all who were involved in any way with the Festival. This will be free for anyone who wants to see it on the condition that copyright must be adhered to… i.e. no money must exchange hands in the sharing/showing of the presentation and the copyright of all submissions and photos will remain with the individual contributors.

Hindsight is always a wonderful thing and if I had inserted a slot on the back of the postcards for a day and time to be recorded of when the postcard was created, I would not now be having to sift, sift and sift again through the many postcards – in an attempt to put into chronological order the chaotic creativity of the Festival period. Don’t tell anyone I said this but it’s like trying to make creative writing an academic subject – of course it is possible but it’s also restrictive to those free flowing subconscious thoughts that I feel are necessary for writers to express as a starting point – this writer, anyway.

I’ll keep you posted on the progress of The Postcard Challenge.

Back soon…  SF logo


The Big Tour!

Today is ‘My Writing Process’ blog tour day, when writers post about their writing process answering four set questions. Last week the effervescent Kate Evans posted hers and invited me to join the tour. I read Kate’s blog, visited her website and was in awe of how she utilises her creative self within every aspect of her life. Click here for Kate’s Post.

Here are my responses to the questions:

What am I working on?

My second collection of short stories – as yet untitled, though I have designed the image for the front cover in my head so the title won’t be far removed from that. Also in progress is a devotional book of prayer and meditation, my personal poetry and ongoing journal musings – though the latter two are not for publication, unless of course something metamorphoses into an absolute gem and encourages me to include it in a blog!

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Talking about my short stories, I am obsessed with the darker side of human nature and the subject of death, and explore this obsession within my fictional stories by using raw emotion from real experiences, which results in disturbingly compelling perceptions of the truth.

My prayers and meditations are also based on real experiences and as the topics are universal they can (and are) used as a resource in churches for pastoral/spiritual support. My poetry is a personal indulgence, again based on real experiences, and though I have had a few published in various anthologies in the past, I rarely put them out there.

As to the question, I’m not sure my work differs from others in the same genre, though I will state that my overall aim is to allow the reader to seek out their own truth from within my writing.

Why do I write what I do?

I can’t exist without writing creatively in some shape or form every day. It is a constant motivator to my personal well-being. I write to tease out hidden thoughts from within myself, based on my own or others’ experiences. I write to try and get to the truth of emotional impacts relating to various scenarios. I write to experience the joy in the sense of release when transferring emotional truths into fictional settings. I write because I can be open and honest about emotions within my work without fearing the consequences. I write to get rid of unhealthy negative feelings and turn them into something positive. I write to heal my wounded soul. I write because I enjoy it.

How does your writing process work?

Quite chaotically in the sense that I usually have lots of writing on the go at any one time and add to it as and when inspiration takes hold. When I feel I have enough material to complete one particular project, say a short story collection, I focus on that alone until it’s complete, placing the others on a back burner until I can pick them back up.

Ideas come easily to me through regular journal writing and everyday observations; I also find some of my memories in connection with my dysfunctional family background provide a lot of my material. Once the seed of an idea is planted in my mind, I tend to let it lie for a few days until it ferments and becomes so embedded that I think around it constantly. Once it’s at that stage, I use a sprint writing exercise to connect to what’s already started to develop in my imagination (write quickly without caring about punctuation etc – i.e. stream of consciousness). From this I glean the raw emotion for the piece. It then grows intuitively and branches out into strands of a story (or whatever it wants to be). It becomes the bones of a first draft. Then I start on the hard work that is the crafting and editing, again and again, until I’m satisfied with the piece of writing and confident that I’ve successfully wrapped and hidden my ‘self’ within the fiction. In other words, I’ve added layers of flesh to the bare bones of the initial raw emotion in a creative way.

And talking of adding layers, I’m now passing the baton on to Alan Combes who will continue the ‘My Writing Process’ blog tour on Monday 24th February. I met Alan last year at a Writers’ Circle and have a high regard for his varied writing skill.

Alan was born in Newark, Notts, and attended the Thomas Magnus Grammar when it was worth mentioning. He did teacher training at King Alfred’s, Winchester, and was awarded a degree by Nottingham Uni and later a Masters at York.

Alan’s first published piece was a poem about Adam and Eve which was a runner-up in the Lancaster literary festival. His first paid piece was about a camping holiday behind the Iron Curtain, published by the Guardian, which was a forerunner for his regular human interest pieces for that paper as well as a column in Young Guardian (not there now). As a teacher, he had a lot of pieces published in the Times Ed, then started writing football for the Observer, the Independent and, for 11 years, the Sunday Times. He began getting published for kids in 1997 and combined football and fiction for Barrington Stoke, producing two best sellers for dyslexic boys who were footy-mad. He toured Dublin on the back of his ‘Dead Man Files’, which was also written for young problem readers.

His musical ‘Black Potatoes’ filled the Upstage Theatre in York for a week in 2010 and he is currently submitting ‘Her Cambodian Bodyguard’, a play about Alzheimer’s, at the Stephen Joseph Theatre.

Read more from Alan on his website and blog ‘latest news’ at


Facing the blank page

The next group of students to graduate from the University of Hull’s BA (Hons) in Creative Writing are ordering their caps and gowns as I write… and what have I done with my writing since graduating last July? Unashamedly self-published my short stories collection of course! I’ve also learned (the hard way) about what not to do when going down the self-publishing route. What doesn’t kill you etc, etc…

I am now faced with a blank page – the first in my beautiful new note book (my reward for completing a writing project). My beautiful new pen (another reward) is poised… ready for my next adventure on Writers’ Way: A devotional book of prayers and meditations (with sketches) to open a route into a personal relationship with God (something completely different from my disturbing slice-of-life short stories).

I know in facing this blank page that I’m not suffering from writers’ block… I’m merely waiting for my muse to inspire me with beautiful words with which to adorn the page. I don’t want to waste a first page experience with a sprint writing exercise to enable my words to flow from my head to my fingertips… I want a ready-made perfectly worded piece of prose so that my venture has a beautiful springboard to bounce off and get itself going. Maybe it should be a prayer then? 

Whilst waiting for my muse to wake from its comatose state, my random thoughts search through the unorganised chaos of my imagination and, in a sudden flash, a blink of an eye that I would have missed had I not been waiting idly for something to happen, I discover why I can’t start. It’s so simple that it was difficult to fathom out at first. It is this: I haven’t let go of my characters from my stories yet. After all, I spent hours, days, weeks, months with them and know them intimately… like a second skin. I haven’t celebrated their lives… honoured the dead, as they say, in an official letting go ceremony. I’ve dashed straight on to the next thing without giving myself time to rest and reflect in the process of producing something I’ve created, and bask in the glory of its completion.

I look at my blank page again after my thoughts subside and… it has these beautiful words written on it – haiku style.

Prayers of devotion

embrace a new creation

to honour the dead.

See how it works? You can do a sprint exercise in your mind, not just on paper, and the words will write themselves.

Try it… you’ll see what I mean. You will need…

a blank page.

Have fun!

with love, Julie

PS. I believe a writing block can be likened to a prayer block. Therefore, if your writing’s blocked, pray – if your prayer’s blocked, write. If both should become blocked simultaneously, rest in random thoughts. These thoughts can become a prayer to provide you with words to write (or vice versa).

(Examples of pathways to prayer will be illustrated in my next project… watch this space)