What I Read When I’m Not Writing

When I was a teenager, a few years ago now (quiet at the back), I wasn’t sure what to read once I had devoured Judy Blume, Virginia Andrews and the like. Back then there wasn’t the amazing young adult books that are available now so I headed into crime, not literally, I might add.

Ian Rankin’s Rebus caught my eye. His interesting vinyl collection and witty banter pulling me in. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Fast forward some decades and I am still devouring ‘lives of crime’ , continually adding new authors to my list of go-to’s should I need a break from the world of middle grade and picture books.

Police procedurals are my top choice so I was delighted to find out that the formidable DI Donna Davenport’s latest stomp into the world was now available. For those who haven’t read any of Jackie McLean’s novels I urge you to start now.

‘Run’ is set in DI Davenport’s hectic world as she works all hours to find a cop killer. In true McLean style, Davenport also has an international investigation grabbing her attention too. Policing football matches is the least of her worries but when a local thug ends up in the mortuary, distracting the team, it not only adds to Davenport’s workload and stretches the force to its limit.

Mob rule beckons and the powers-at-be consider that the ever-increasing crime tally is being manufactured by a force they cannot see,a force they need to stop before it gets out of control.

Blog re-vamp, come and see!

Hi everyone, thank you all for following my journey towards procrastination heaven on this Great Big Jar blog.

I have decided to change my blog name to my actual name so although I have migrated all the posts and other technical aspects over, I would love you to join me at http://www.sarahbroadley.com/ instead.

Please click on the link and come and say hello, subscribe to my blog posts and the usual general shenanigans that seem to follow me everywhere.

See you all soon!

P.s I will no longer be updating this blog. All new posts will appear on sarahbroadley.com.

Sssshhh! Writer at Work

I’ve been to many book launches and ‘in conversation with’ events and one question (and its variants) always crops up during the Q & A.

Do you listen to music when you write? Is a radio blasting out tunes in the background as you conquer each chapter? Do you write in a cafe or even a shed in your garden?

Sometimes, sometimes, sometimes and no are my answers to these particular questions but regardless of where I am, when I do listen to music, I have my go-to artists.

It’s all dependant on where I am with a story.

For the first draft or vomit draft, as some writers call it, I usually work in silence. If I’m stuck or have no idea what will come next in this new creative world I’m conjuring up, I stick on some Motown. I think Martha and her fabulous Vandellas telling me that there’s ‘no-where to run to’ confirms my exemplary procrastination skills are defeated and I need to get my head down. Each word added at this time is a bonus – usually given in the form of a biscuit to go with yet another cuppa.

Once the first draft is painstakingly finished, I can then move on to the first edit. I don’t normally need silence for this because the bones of the tale are down, it’s now my job to fill in the blanks and make sure there is a chance of a workable story somewhere in the pages of notes. This is when the radio is turned on. The white noise coming from the wee box that sits in the corner of the room is a comfort for when I’m picking through the sentences I had written..

Further edits are met with silence but in some cases songs from Tracey Chapman and The Doors may make an appearance on my turntable (I believe people in my age range who have vinyl prefer the word retro). Jim Morrison was a poet before his songs made him famous, in particular his tracks from the album Soft Parade are a nod to his genius in this field and regularly get aired in my room. Tracy’s soft voice and guitar chords are just the right medicine for anyone needing a reassuring voice in the creative dark. Regardless of whether your drive a Fast Car or not, ‘Talking About a Revolution’ makes me cry so I tend to avoid that one. Newton Faulkner can also be heard singing about his dreams catching him, an apt song for this occasion if ever there was one.

A read-through comes next. This is when I read my words out loud as I seem to spot mistakes better that way. The wonderful lull of Stevie Wonder always helps me out at this point, in particular anything from his album Songs in the Key of Life, especially ‘If It’s Magic’.

Pressing send requires a lot of courage. What better way to send your story on its way to readers to tell you whether all the late nights/early mornings have been worth it, than a great big dollop of ACDC. Back in Black… font.

My Edinburgh International Book Festival

Every August, the Edinburgh International Book Festival’s tents go up in Charlotte Square and more recently in George Street too. I kiss my family good bye and say ‘it’s only 17 days, I’ll be back soon’. That is, of course, a slight exaggeration (quiet at the back).

Chairing seven events with eight creatives, I knew this year was going to be special and it was. I got to see behind the scenes and meet all the wonderful people that make the festival go like clockwork – from the ticket sellers in the main entrance to the sound technicians who ensure you have a mic that works and the clicker will indeed get you to the next slide of your power point presentation without you having to resort to interpretative dance in front of a blank screen (not that this happened).

Thank you to those who I managed to get a photo of, there are many more not mentioned below who keep me safe in my little world, you know who you are.

In the order displayed below (l to r): Dr Sheila Kanani, Emma Lazell, Charlotte Guillain, AL Kennedy, Chris Close‘s photo of Justin, the Kelpies Prize giving, Mairi Kidd & Siobhán Parkinson, Oscar Silvas & Dougie Irvine, Ann Giles, Candy Gourlay, Elizabeth Laird, Chloe Daykin, Darren Shan, David Almond, Lauren James, Elizabeth Frattaroli, Patrice Lawrence (& childhood friends), David Solomons, Sue Hendra & Paul Linnet, Justin Davies and Jackie Kay & all.

The Fear

Pressing send on an important e-mail makes my hands sweat, droplets appear on my top lip and I feel like I’ve just consumed something that is going to make me throw up. It’s not because I feel awful about what I’m about to do, on the contrary, it’s more to do with the expectation of what might happen next.

There’s a common theme that runs through my blog posts and that is the ‘what if’s’. No-one wants to know what’s running around in my head when that happens. There isn’t a blog space that would be big enough for all my ‘what if’ worries, so this is what I do to help me get the information to the person who has requested it as quickly and stress-free as possible:

1.Spellcheck is your friend, use it before you press send. Your fast-beating heart will thank you for it.

2.Is the e-mail address correct? Have you spelled their name correctly? Do they have a preferred way to contact them? And are you using that preferred way? Did you actually check the submission page on their website?

3. Did you attach the attachment you have written to them about before pressing send? I’m not going to lie, I may have done this in the past and I can assure you it’s not a good thing to do for your sanity or theirs. What hope do they have for you if you can’t attach a file to an e-mail that politely says ‘please find attached…’ (it may have been years ago when I was new to the whole ‘sending out to agents’ thing but I still cringe about it and I will never tell you who it was).

4. Nothing bad can ever happen if you have completed 1, 2 & 3 to the best of your ability. All they can say is no and you will dig deep for inner courage and move on. Nod if you’ve just been through this, it does get better, honest.

5. Do not press send on the same day/right after you type up your covering e-mail. Leave it a few hours sitting in your drafts folder or even better, leave it overnight. There will be less chance of mistakes if you give your brain a chance to digest what you’re doing. Brains can get over excited and eager to press send before the owner of the brain is physically ready.

6. As much as some of us like a glass of wine to unwind of an evening, do not press send after a few ‘dutch courage’ snifters. It will all end in tears, literally. Or you’ll write that you really love them and I mean really love them and no-one wants that. Yes, your love is appreciated but not in that way. And no, I am not speaking from experience here but I have seen the aftermath of such scenarios that involve apologetic phone calls, weeping, hiding under duvets with embarrassment followed by mumbled shouts of ‘I am never writing/submitting to that agent/coming out of here again’ from within the confines of a cosy blanket.

7. The truth be told, I don’t press send. I do however follow the above 6 rules and once I am ready and I have attached my document and everything in the spelling world is fine and dandy…

…I get my son to press it instead.