Tag Archives: creativity

Conceived in 1993

Conceived in 1993
Apparently it's six years since I found, and found an old VHS tape of my BA Creative Arts honours project and managed to put it online. It's quite prophetic really. It was always about global filmaker, Hol E. Wood, and the loss of creativity in the media, but back then in 1993 it did seem to foreshadow developments in filmaking that we take for granted now, and some that are more that we are grappling with in their infancy:
every single film ever made has been digitally compressed into a huge library, where they can be accessed, taken apart, used, reused - infinitesimally Mrs Chubbs, Home Movies, 1993
Take Peter Cushing's appearance in the latest Star Wars film, and the controversy over whether we have the right to have actors play parts that they never could have had any knowledge of. It's all there in Home Movies... Something else which is there is the character of Amanda Jones from the 1985 film Some Kind of Wonderful. Who would've thought then that she would the seed of the story for the Mr Tumnal follow-up, The Imaginary Wife as just one of the literary and pop-culture references to find and enjoy?

Too many stories; too little time to write them

Too many stories; too little time to write them

Two days ago I wrote this post about how new stories are emerging in my mind, and how I now had an unexpected sequel to Mr Tumnal. This morning whilst walking to work across the quad of Oxford’s Bodleian Library I suddenly realised that I had an idea for a second sequel too.

Mr Tumnal #3: Forgotten Friends is a ghost story with a very Thomas-twist to it. Just need to get on and write them now. The thing is I’d already started writing In Your Own Words, and I was excited by that, not counting my spin-off short story Summers In Winter …I just have too many stories to write and to little time in which to write them.

Stories emerging

Stories emerging

I enjoy getting feedback on my stories. My latest 5-star review, solicited from a blogger in return for an honest review, was amazing, and just the latest review which has asked for/expected a sequel. I wonder if this is book series culture coming out, that I don’t seem to be “allowed” to write a standalone novel these days. I always thought of Mr Tumnal as its own, complete, story with its end being The End.

That said, my characters have continued to talk to me which has led me to believe that maybe there might be something more. Today I had an idea which links in nicely with The Imaginary Wife in which Louis and Kathryn do both take on central roles again in another follow-on story. So maybe there will be a Mr Tumnal #2: The Imaginary Wife. It’s actually an exciting prospect. It enables the original story to remain itself, a standalone, but also allows my fans to enjoy the characters once again. This is good.

When the characters keep talking

When the characters keep talking

A week and a half on and its weird to think that all around the world there are people reading Mr Tumnal. A year ago the story was resting before I embarked on the editing, but that didn’t stop the characters talking to me. On a weekend away on the Wiltshire/Hampshire border I started writing a companion piece involving some old and some new characters from my second novel.

This particular story will never be a full-length novel, but I like it that my characters have continued to talk to me, and that their lives have continued. I guess its a bit like fan fiction isn’t it. Is it fan fiction if the author themselves writes new stories with old characters?

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Mr Tumnal is available as both a paperback and an eBook for Kindle.

Mr Tumnal

Shepherd, T E (Cover illustration by Silviu Sadoschi)
Publication date: May 2012
Ebook ISBN 978 0 9571756 6 2 (£2.99) Amazon UK | Amazon.com
Paperback ISBN 978 0 9571756 7 9 (£8.99) Amazon UK | Amazon.com

Inspiration escaping me

Inspiration escaping me

This evening I find myself tired. In my day job, it has been Open Day, and the October one is one of our biggest and most important for next year’s recruitment. I always feel a bit of a fraud for being tired after these because other’s should be far more tired than me, but it is still quite an intense time helping potential students get the most from their visit. I guess that’s why. The weather this morning, was to be honest, dismal. It was very, very wet, but we were still busy so that was good, and this afternoon it cleared up and this evening has been the most beautiful of autumn ones. I’m sure that overnight all the trees have suddenly started properly turning! The changing of seasons is always something that inspires me…

I’m also being inspired to write again. It now being four months since I subbed Mr Tumnal to a couple of publishers I’m now planning on finishing it up for a pre-Christmas Indie release. I’ve realised for this that I need to have a cover professionally made for it, and have contacted a few designers. I’ve already had some brilliant early sketches from Silviu Sadoschi, who has previously designed the cover for my friend, John Scotcher’s The Boy in Winter’s Grasp. I’ve also made contact with Alexandra Allden, the sister of a colleague of a colleague of mine. Talking to both Silviu and Alexandra have shown me that a professional cover design was not the prohibitive expense that I thought it was going to be, and have enthused me with the idea that I really can do my story justice, and I am excited by the prospect of working with either.

I’m also finding the need to get stuck into my next story leaching out of me. I’ve written short stories in the last year, but I’m finding my fingers aching to write the next novel. And here’s the thing? Which of my many ideas is going to my next? My natural home is one of magical realism, but the one I’m not sure if the next I feel closest to is magical? There’s a twist, and its a really good twist, but I’m not sure if magic lies therein. I guess that’s not so much of a problem.

I just need to get my pen out and place the first mark down and write.

I am creative. I am an author.

I am creative. I am an author.

I am creative. I am an author.

I got these wise words from Joanna Penn and her latest blog post about Lessons Learned From 3 Years As An Author-Entrepreneur. It’s weird to say this considering how much I love books, always find time to read, and itch to write but I think I might need to write this on a Post-It note and stick it over my desk.

Ever since May 2012, I have finally been able to say that I have earnt money from my writing – a three figure salary no less – but when it comes to paying the bills, its my job developing websites for the university. There’s something in my brain, I think, that when I am at a party and asked what I do, I still say I’m a Web Designer, or if I’m being completely accurate, a ‘Web and Digital Media Officer’.

Why do I never say that I’m a writer?

I guess it might be the follow-on question that always comes; that is variations on the theme of that question of what you have written? Have I read anything that you’ve written? And I still find that hard, admitting that my book is self-published, that sales only trickle in…

But I am a creative. I am a writer. Not a day, hour or minute goes by without me thinking, dreaming, breathing the life of a writer. I am compelled to write by a need to tell stories. I carry my notebook and a pen with me everywhere and find the oddest scraps of time to write. If I’m not reading, I’m writing. More often than not I’m writing. Maybe its because there is part of me that hankers after the need for validation of someone independent from my circle of friends of family saying yes they want to publish me? And yet, I can write. People who I don’t know have bought, and read, and liked my book. Isn’t that as validated as I need to be?

So next time someone asks me what I do, I must say first and foremost: I am a creative. I am an author. And if it comes out later that I also get paid to design websites, well, that’s what I do when I’m not writing stories…

Inspire A Generation… of writers?

Inspire A Generation... of writers?

Two years ago it seemed like just about the entire country was in the thrall of the London 2012 Olympics; we were all still talking about that Opening Ceremony; and the music that featured in it was still ringing in our ears. The mantra surrounding the days was Inspire a generation and of ‘legacy’. It’s not for me to judge whether those aims were fulfilled. I was inspired but I can’t say that I’ve actually done anything to live up to that inspiration. Not, at least, in a sporting sense.

A year on, and this time last year, that playlist was back in my head, being replayed on almost constant repeat on my iPod. Once again, it was the soundtrack to my life, and it was inspiring me. I remember one weekend afternoon/evening when Emma got called out work, I was working on Mr Tumnal in the garden under the shade of the umbrella and listening to my 2012 playlist on headphones and I was in the zone… and I didn’t realise that all around me there was the most torrential rain and a thunderstorm raging!

That was exactly a year ago today; the day that I put my last pen mark to Mr Tumnal’s story. Another year on, and I have a yearning to listen to that music again. In the intervening year, I have read, re-read, had-read, redrafted, edited, and had-edited my novel, and submitted it to publisher’s. No wonder then, that I am now getting itchy fingers to start writing again.

I’m not entirely sure that writing was quite the thing that Locog had in mind when they coined the Inspire a generation slogan, but hey, if it works! I wonder if every July will demand this music to be played?

On the thirteenth day of advent: of inspiring places

On the thirteenth day of advent: of inspiring places

Today has been Emma’s birthday. As something a bit different this year, we’ve had a night away at the Bourne Valley Inn in St Mary Bourne in rural Hampshire. Yesterday we visited Avebury to see the biggest stone circle in the British Isles, and to Avebury Manor – star of the BBC show The Manor Reborn.

The stone age ring of standing stones inspired me to write yesterday’s poem, whilst the homely coziness of the the Bourne Valley Inn and the lovely meal last night – which we ate in our slippers in front of a roaring open fire – gave me other writing ideas. This morning we struck off on a walk, winding our way up hill, and down valley in the cold, grey, midwinter’s light. It started to rain halfway and our return journey really was into the dark comes rising kind of weather. We retreated to the homely Inn for a light lunch to warm ourselves up.

It was over lunch that I put pen to paper on some new writing. A bit of a first (or a rediscovery) for me, as its a short story – a companion piece to my Mr Tumnal novel. Set at some point after the end of the novel, it doesn’t rely on prior knowledge of the story but shows some of the characters in a new setting. A pub that isn’t but is much like the Inn features in it, and Louis’ daughter Sarah is now working behind the bar, but more than that I cannot say.

I just like it that a change of scene, and something new, or something different can set something in my brain moving to generate this creativity. It’s something that I like very much about myself.

Considering the voices in my head

Considering the voices in my head

Mr Tumnal is the story of  a man who  marries his imaginary friend.  Based on the  dissertation of my friends Kirsty, You Were My Betty is  another crazy idea from the same brain.  Charlotte gets help  with her  dissertation from Betty, a good friend whom she only ever seems to see in the library – a girl who knows everything about psychology and social care but who is lacking any ability to exist in the real world. When her dissertation is finished she realises that  Elizabeth is actually Betty – the name that she has given her  with in progress…

There’s a boy too, the only other person to have seen the imaginary Betty. He exchanged a smile in the library one day and is desperate to find her again. He insists Charlotte to help find her nature  Charlotte has scared her away.

Stories always develop in libraries. There are places to hide in libraries and knowledge to be learnt. Three is dance and adventure tho be had in libraries.

I’m considering  what sort too write next. I’m tempted by this one but for the amount of research I’m going to have to do  to be able to write Betty’s character as all she can talk about is very academic subject…

…but the other story I have in mind – the follow up to The End Of All Worlds – also involves me in reading a large amount of the old sagas. Either way, something to keep me occupied whilst I get Mr Tumnal ready for publication.

 

 

 

My enduring love of books and bookshops explained

My enduring love of books and bookshops explained

I’ve always loved reading, and have never not had a ‘book on the go’. I also like writing them too. I can pinpoint the moment that I became a writer to my ninth birthday when my Grandpa gave me a toy theatre he had made, and I started turning the stories I had written into plays that I would put on for my family on Sunday afternoons. Before then though, I had still always been creative, with an (some might say over-) active imagination for stories.

FacebookprofilesquareNo Saturday morning trip to town was, for me, complete without a trip to the local library or the local bookshop. I remember devouring the children’s library bare of books, and our bookshop was the the local WHSmith’s in the days when they did have proper book departments. A treat would be to go to Cambridge where I could lose myself in the (now sadly closed) Heffers Children’s Bookshop. Bookshops, have always been a place where you could find new books by authors you loved, or discover brilliant new authors you’d never heard of before. There’s something special about bookshops when it comes to discovering and falling in love with books and stories.

Now though, I’m not just a Reader, and a Writer but an author of the Indie breed. As such, I am, unapologetically in bed with Amazon. I would counter this to say that whilst I am in bed with Amazon and my debut novel The End Of All Worlds, it really is a marriage of convenience. For me telling a story and a good book is where it’s at, and if that means that to get new books out there that some publishing company have deemed “not to be for them” you have to go an Indie route that involves eBooks and multi-national conglomerates, then that’s the bed that I’m going to have to lie in.

I get less of a royalty but my book is opened out to a wider enough distribution as possible (I still get as much or more than I would per copy than a traditional publishing deal), and this means that, should they want to, your chain or your local independent bookshop can order copies. Why wouldn’t I do that? Why would I want to exclude real bookshops from being able to stick my book?

Amazon is convenient, sometimes all too convenient, but you can’t  beat a proper bookshop. Just the other week I was on holiday in the New Forest and I wanted to get myself a copy of Susan Cooper’s new book Ghost Hawk. I want to the brilliant Fordingbridge Bookshop on the release date but they didn’t have it. As I was going home the next day I thought I’ll order it from Amazon… it turned out they couldn’t despatch it for 7-10 days…. at 3pm I phoned Fordingbridge Books back and ordered it. By lunchtime three following day I had it in my hands. Now that’s service.

If books are your bag, you should check out the manifesto that Fordingbridge Books have written for their website as to why books are important. I agree pretty much with all of it…

Yes, books are used as a sign of our taste / education / bias and are placed on show for those we allow into our house to see (something much more convoluted and less subtle to do with your e-reader of choice) but they are also objects we can loan and share with others. Being able to share a book you’ve loved with someone as instantly as handing them your heavily leafed copy rather than directing them to an Internet link. It is for this reason (and many others) that bookshops are still relevant and even essential.

So yes, Amazon has opened up the world of publication to me, but they are not the end of the story. I’m not sure that eBooks and online shops would ever inspire songs like this:

…or prompt people to spend however many hours making this:

I’m also not sure where you could put one of these if you are reading on your eReader? Come and see me at Blackwell’s Oxford’s Books Are My Bag party tomorrow, Saturday 14 September to get one for yourself…

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A writer’s regret

A writer's regret

Being as I am in that awkward space that a writer finds themself in, of having finished writing the one novel but not yet having started the next, my mind is,  as I begin to read and revise   Mr Tumnal, turning to the next story.

That next story will be, I think, a follow up to  The End Of All Worlds. Now when I was writing that book I  didn’t think there would be another and so consequently I wrote the story free from any thoughts of what might come next. If course I knew that all the characters had stories to go on – I just didn’t think I would be writing them. After my return to Iceland last year the seeds for a follow-up came into mind. Indeed, whilst driving the south coast back to Reykjavik I did start to compose soon me earlier scenes that I then had to write down.

In The End Of All Worlds there are some powerful locations, and one of them is the old farm cum telegraph exchange. Sadly, this is the date that befell that location…

Gunnlaugr stood on the road above Hanna Katla Baldursdóttir’s family home. Below him, he watched the house and the flames that burnt within. As he watched the roof collapsed inwards on itself and the house exploded. Sparks flew and metalwork twisted, warped and melted. The svart-alfar retreated, away from the carnage that was left at the head of the valley. Gunnlaugr smiled, thinly.

I’m now finding that I am referring burning down this house, to the point that I have been pondering whether I should consider a minor require of the story to leave it in a reader, vandalized state rather than a burnt out shell.

I have pondered this a lot today. I can’t do it. Whilst I can correct spelling and grammar and formatting errors, I can’t require the story now it’s “out there”. However I think I have a solution. There is another location. The old farm that burnt down is actually the newer of two old farms. There is also the turf-roofed house. I’m thinking that the insurance from the destroyed farm together with selling the plot enables the farm – which actually means much more – to be restored by the family. I’m liking this solution.

The End

The End

I first started writing the curious tale of Mr Tumnal during my honeymoon on 3 June 2009. A little over four year’s later, at 23:10 on Saturday 27 June 2013, I finished it. It is one-year to the day that the London 2012 Olympics started. Over the past few days I’ve been listening to the music from the Isles of Wonder opening ceremony which has been a source of creative inspiration of late. By coincidence I discovered that BBC3 were reshowing the ceremony this evening so I switched from iPod to TV as I continued to write…

994256_10151750075175630_1701512859_nI first came up with the idea for this story – a story of a man who marries his imaginary friend and has an imaginary child with with his imaginary friend – on an August day in 2006. I was car-sharing with Caroline at the time. It was my turn to drive and as I pulled away from the house I remember saying, “It’s a bit autumnal today” …to which Caroline replied, “Who’s Mr Tumnal?” Seven years later, not only do I know all to well who Mr Tumnal is, I also know what happened to him.

998362_10151750092800630_1168085208_nMr Tumnal’s story fills three leather-wrap journals – that first on the bottom of the pile was a birthday present in 2009 and I can still remember the fear and trepidation with which I wrote the first words. There’s also a nervousness when writing in a new, beautiful, journal. What if I make a mistake and spoil the first page? I didn’t spoil the first page, and the story continued to come.

I’m pleased to have finished this story, but I fear that I am going to feel a bit bereft now that its done. This is silly really, as although I’ve finished the story, I’ve not really finished. I’ve got to reread it, redraft it, probably hate it for a time, leave it, come back to it, read it again and fall back in love with it, redraft it again, edit it, have it edited, and then, maybe, consider either getting it published or going again down the Indie route. Not really any reason to feel bereft…

The End

I first started writing the curious tale of Mr Tumnal during my honeymoon on 3 June 2009. A little over four year’s later, at 23:10 on Saturday 27 June 2013, I finished it. It is one-year to the day that the London 2012 Olympics started. Over the past few days I’ve been listening to the music from the Isles of Wonder opening ceremony which has been a source of creative inspiration of late. By coincidence I discovered that BBC3 were reshowing the ceremony this evening so I switched from iPod to TV as I continued to write…

994256_10151750075175630_1701512859_nI first came up with the idea for this story – a story of a man who marries his imaginary friend and has an imaginary child with with his imaginary friend – on an August day in 2006. I was car-sharing with Caroline at the time. It was my turn to drive and as I pulled away from the house I remember saying, “It’s a bit autumnal today” …to which Caroline replied, “Who’s Mr Tumnal?” Seven years later, not only do I know all to well who Mr Tumnal is, I also know what happened to him.

998362_10151750092800630_1168085208_nMr Tumnal’s story fills three leather-wrap journals – that first on the bottom of the pile was a birthday present in 2009 and I can still remember the fear and trepidation with which I wrote the first words. There’s also a nervousness when writing in a new, beautiful, journal. What if I make a mistake and spoil the first page? I didn’t spoil the first page, and the story continued to come.

I’m pleased to have finished this story, but I fear that I am going to feel a bit bereft now that its done. This is silly really, as although I’ve finished the story, I’ve not really finished. I’ve got to reread it, redraft it, probably hate it for a time, leave it, come back to it, read it again and fall back in love with it, redraft it again, edit it, have it edited, and then, maybe, consider either getting it published or going again down the Indie route. Not really any reason to feel bereft…

Originally published at shepline: the journal“>shepline: the journal. You can comment here or

When a photographer is not a photographer

When a photographer is not a photographer

There was an interesting discussion on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row tonight about a new exhibition of photographs…

Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2013

The four artists shortlisted for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2013 are the artist duo Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin, Mishka Henner, Chris Killip and Cristina De Middel.

A selection of the shortlisted artists’ work is on exhibition at The Photographers’ Gallery from 19th April – 30th June.

One of the photographs was displaying “images”  that he had “taken” from Google StreetView. much of the discussion focused on whether you could call yourself a photographer of you didn’t actually take the photographs yourself. My instinctive reaction is no. But then I started to think about it…

In this particular case the exhibition consisted of old photographs of street scenes put together with and alongside the same scenes but from Google StreetView. Why, I began to wonder is this any different to the writer who borrows and takes from and references old stories and retellings and then weaving together to  make something new. Why are they still a writer but the photographer isn’t? I don’t have an answer for it… in my mind they are still unquestionably an artist but that a photographer does need to take photographs.

( listen to the episode )

 

 

 

When a photographer is not a photographer

There was an interesting discussion on BBC Radio 4′s Front Row tonight about a new exhibition of photographs…

Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2013

The four artists shortlisted for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2013 are the artist duo Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin, Mishka Henner, Chris Killip and Cristina De Middel.

A selection of the shortlisted artists’ work is on exhibition at The Photographers’ Gallery from 19th April – 30th June.

One of the photographs was displaying “images”  that he had “taken” from Google StreetView. much of the discussion focused on whether you could call yourself a photographer of you didn’t actually take the photographs yourself. My instinctive reaction is no. But then I started to think about it…

In this particular case the exhibition consisted of old photographs of street scenes put together with and alongside the same scenes but from Google StreetView. Why, I began to wonder is this any different to the writer who borrows and takes from and references old stories and retellings and then weaving together to  make something new. Why are they still a writer but the photographer isn’t? I don’t have an answer for it… in my mind they are still unquestionably an artist but that a photographer does need to take photographs.

( listen to the episode )

 

 

 

Originally published at shepline: the journal“>shepline: the journal. You can comment here or

Whilst I’ve been away…

Whilst I've been away...

As is my way, after a flurry of writing activity is all gone a bit quiet again. In part, that is because I’ve found myself busy doing geeky, all-consuming, submersive webby/journal-style stuff. In this case it has been the process of styling the new, WordPress-based home, of my journal into something presentable and that I am happy with.

I’ve also been busy reading. 8 books this year, which for me is unprecedented. Between that and geeky web stuff I’ve but haven’t had the energy to also be writing. Add to that that the place where I left off was some major denouement, it has taken a while to get going again.

One of the geeky things things that I have done is to import my journal to WordPress and this has involved reviewing and remembering the things that I have thought, felt, and written. One of those things I have written about is how H2O+CL (or swimming) had been an elixir of creativity for me. So it was that this morning, whilst having a shower, the dialogue started coming and I knew how it began.

To add to the creative moment, during the drive to work I also worked out some images for, and plot development of the follow up novel to The End Of All Worlds. Why is that I get the best inspiration at the most inconvenient of times.

Whilst I’ve been away…

As is my way, after a flurry of writing activity is all gone a bit quiet again. In part, that is because I’ve found myself busy doing geeky, all-consuming, submersive webby/journal-style stuff. In this case it has been the process of styling the new, WordPress-based home, of my journal into something presentable and that I am happy with.

I’ve also been busy reading. 8 books this year, which for me is unprecedented. Between that and geeky web stuff I’ve but haven’t had the energy to also be writing. Add to that that the place where I left off was some major denouement, it has taken a while to get going again.

One of the geeky things things that I have done is to import my journal to WordPress and this has involved reviewing and remembering the things that I have thought, felt, and written. One of those things I have written about is how H2O+CL (or swimming) had been an elixir of creativity for me. So it was that this morning, whilst having a shower, the dialogue started coming and I knew how it began.

To add to the creative moment, during the drive to work I also worked out some images for, and plot development of the follow up novel to The End Of All Worlds. Why is that I get the best inspiration at the most inconvenient of times.

Dreaming Red

I haven’t had as many story dreams in recent times as I used to – historically some of my most creative stories from dreams and sometimes from my serial dreams. Last night I had a brilliant dream, the prospect of writing down really excited me to.

It was about Red Riding Hood in a modern, real-world setting. The Girl, Red, was facing something but it wasn’t the wolf. Annoyingly I can’t remember the precise story – it was just based on that setting but was a new story. It’s annoying me. I want to remember. I want to write it down…

Reimagining the real

Jericho, Oxford is a bohemian neighbourhood. It’s sought after and desirable for its community, attractiveness, and appeal, but when it features in Mr Tumnal Jericho is not quite bohemian enough. I’ve got to a part in the story when Kathryn returns to her small househouse and I get to really describe the area.

So this week I’ve been having lots of fun reimaging somewhere I love in a way that makes it just more so, in every way. Add to that the trams and metros that criss-cross Wren Hoe and you have a community that I find very special. Love writing about it!