Cornish Writing Challenge: Meet runner-up Liz Carr

The first Cornish Writing Challenge ran from April-June, and drew in a variety of excellent short stories. Read on to find out more about runner-up Liz Carr, and read her submission, A Mere Mortal.

Liz Carr_Bandwagon

Liz Carr has been a writer and editor in higher education, for charities, and commercial organisations since 1990. She has also taught online writing to university staff who are non-professional writers, and been a non-fiction ghost-writer.

In 2012, one of her poems, On Debut, was shortlisted for the Australia Cricket Poetry Prize and published in the anthology. She has also organised and taken part in writers’ retreats in Cornwall for Fictionfire.

She can mostly be found on the A30 travelling between her home near Heathrow airport where she lives with her husband, and St Ives, where she keeps watch over two small cottages.

What inspired you to start writing?

I started writing when I was very young, inspired by the Bronte sisters and the tiny books they produced as children. I used to make my own. As a kid, books were my bribe. I had books instead of fireworks, books after doctors’ appointments, book tokens for presents and, of course, the weekly trip to the library. I’d stagger out with the maximum number allowed and I’d always finish them before they were due back.

I started getting serious about my creative writing about six years ago, then realised how little I knew. It’s definitely a lifelong quest.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Don’t be surprised when it gets ‘…difficult, difficult, lemon difficult’ (with thanks to In the Loop). I thought creative writing would be easy. I’d written material for years – for other people – so I presumed it would be the same thing but I’d just be making it up.

You are making it up, but it’s extraordinarily hard to match the brilliance and insight that’s in your head with the terrible, clichéd nonsense that ends up on the page. I’ve also realised that all writers experience this gap. Simon Mawer responded to me in a tweet, saying ‘hard writing makes easy reading.’ This is the best advice I’ve had, and it’s what I’d pass on.

Tell us more about A Mere Mortal. Where did the inspiration come from?

A Mere Mortal is loosely based on the legend of the Mermaid of Zennor. I had an idea of switching the sexes so that it’s a woman who comes to Cornwall to escape and finds Llyr, king of the sea. I imagined her life in an isolated cottage perched on the edge of the fictional hamlet, Pool Cove, which exists as the picture in the competition. Music and dance also inspire me, so they had to be included.

What is your connection to Cornwall?

Cornwall has been pulse throughout my life. We used to go to Newquay for holidays as my father was a keen surfer. About twenty years ago, I started coming to St Ives to stay with my dearest friend. Three years ago, my husband and I bought a tiny cottage in Lelant, and its next door neighbour the following year. I manage the rentals and get down there whenever I can. I find that little piece of Cornwall uplifting and it fuels my creativity.

What’s next for you?

I’m writing a novel, set in 1975 Lancashire and Barbados. Racism, the desire for fame at any price, and organised crime all feature as themes. I’m plodding towards the end of the second draft! I’ve also got several ideas for shorter pieces lurking just below the surface and I expect them to make an appearance very soon.

What are you currently reading?

Her Husband’s Lover by Julia Crouch and No Other Darkness by Sarah Hilary. They’re crime/psychological thrillers and both authors are part of the Killer Women group, which promotes women’s crime fiction. I’m also reading Into the Woods by John Yorke, a great book about why stories work and how we structure them.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Exploring new places – for some reason I’m drawn to islands; cooking and music. I’m also a great cricket fan, so in the summer the radio is switched between BBC R3 and Test Match Special.

Lastly, and most importantly, jam or cream first?

Ooh… always jam. It’s the Cornish way. But I’m non-traditional about the flavour. I prefer raspberry!

You can find Liz on Twitter: @elbowframe15. Read on for Liz’s excellent submission, A Mere Mortal.

 

 

It was the music that started it. That and the dancing.

She had left her old life in London behind. Intrusive and relentless. She needed a rest. To stop once and for all the exhaustion that started early in the morning, plagued every movement and never left her alone. Her new life was in Cornwall, with its clear light and healing sea.

The cottage sat between the tidepool and the Atlantic, on a long spit of rock that had managed to green itself, at least part way round the house. Solid square granite. It had two faces: during the day she used the rooms that faced the world; at night she looked seawards to the ocean which soughed and whispered to her.

Pool Cove formed an enclosed harbour, reminding her of the hurricane holes of the Caribbean. It folded around itself, protecting residents and boats from whatever was out there. The old wooden jetty stretched across the far end, doubling as a makeshift marina. Fishermen’s sheds crowded along its length. Nothing picturesque here. Modest dwellings clustered on the opposite side of the cove, but in her cottage, she was apart from them. From everyone.

She did mix. On her terms. There was a part-time seasonal job, selling locally-made arts and crafts to bemused tourists who had wandered into the hamlet by accident. Her music played in the shop and every day she selected composers who fitted her mood. Anyone from Bach to Britten, Mozart to Mahler; all found their way onto her playlists.

At home though, she favoured the quiet hypnotism of Gymnopédie No 1 by Erik Satie, which she played all the time. She kicked off her shoes and danced to the simple piano lines, enjoying the sensation of cool stone flags on bare feet.

Every evening she danced and rediscovered a love that had lain dormant for many years. She left the curtains open. There was no one to see her. Nothing but the occasional cry of a herring gull and waves, washing onto the pebbles below.

As the new moon started its rise, she caught a flicker of something out of the corner of her eye. The bottom edge of the window was illuminated for the briefest moment. She checked. There was nothing. And yet she knew it was something. Or someone.

‘You imagined it, Mattie,’ said Jane, the shop’s owner, the next day.

‘Perhaps it was a boat.’ She was now feeling a bit foolish.

‘Well – serves you right for not closing the curtains. I wouldn’t want to be in that cottage on my tod with everything in full view.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Nothing. Don’t look so worried. I’m just saying I wouldn’t like to be on my own stuck out there,’ Jane smiled. ‘I like being surrounded by people, is all.’

‘Well I’m enjoying being antisocial at the moment.’ She went back to sorting the cards.

The next evening, the Satie was on again. She wondered whether her visitor would reappear. It didn’t bother her – she was intrigued. There was a small sound outside, almost like the sea sighing. Maybe it was the sea. She turned the door knob as quietly as possible, inching the door open just enough to get one eye’s view.

Picked out against the quarter light and fuzzy-felt moon was a man standing with his back to the door. There was a luminous quality about him that made her blink.

‘May I help you?’ She stood square in the doorway.

‘I really hope so,’ he said as he turned around.

She had never seen anyone so beautiful. Pale turquoise eyes, shoulder length gold and silver hair. His clothes were strange: a loose tunic over a full-length garment that shimmered as he moved.

‘I have heard that lovely music for many evenings now and I have watched you dancing. I wanted to meet you,’ he said simply.

A breath caught in her throat. She swallowed it down. ‘Well. Hello then. I’m Mathilda Trewella’.

‘Good evening Mathilda Trewella. I’m Llyr.’ He inclined his head.

‘Mattie for short. Your name — is it Welsh?’ she said, immediately regretting giving voice to the naïve thought.

‘Actually, it is old Cornish.’ His smile reached inside her, filling her with warmth and fluidity like a hot summer sun on cold winter bones.

‘Would you like to come in?’ She stepped aside.

‘No. I am sorry I cannot. Maybe another time. For now it is enough that we have spoken.’ Llyr turned away and before she could say anything more, he had crossed the small patch of grass and disappeared into the thick darkness.

All next day she wondered about Llyr. Who was he? What was his interest in her? She asked around, but no one knew him, unusual for such a tight-knit Cornish village.

It was stuffy in the shop. Her clothes stuck to her and there was a damp patch in the middle of her back. The London headache came back. For once the afternoon dragged and she was desperate to get outside and away from the rhythmic clanking that accompanied moored fishing boats. She needed to cool down. A swim would help.

The sea calmed her. There was a freedom being in the water, weightless and floating on her back, watching birds wheeling and moving through the sky. She began to feel drowsy, rocked by the regular movement, when the surface of the of the water broke in a spray of sparkling drops. Llyr was there, beside her.

They swam together, floating when she grew tired, talking all the time, then moving together in a watery dance. A pair of sea creatures, gleaming and sleek. She barely registered the change from day to night. When she shivered slightly, Llyr wrapped himself round her until she felt warm again.

‘Mattie, come with me and see where I live,’ he whispered. As he held her, he dived. She started to panic, struggling to hold her breath. Being underwater scared her.

He whispered again. ‘Just calm yourself… everything will be all right. Trust me.’ How could that be?

Water rushed at her, sounds became muffled and she heard her own heartbeat. Seconds later they were in an underwater cave, carpeted in soft sand, fronded by ferns and kelp. She could breathe. Pulling away from Llyr, she turned to look at him properly. Was she was dreaming? He had a man’s body but a gleaming fish tail.

‘Welcome to my world – the world under the sea.’

Somewhere far off, she could hear ambient music. It was the Satie, but as she’d never heard it before, played on unknown stringed instruments.

‘Mattie Trewella, dance with me.’ Llyr swooped and dived, turned and danced. Graceful and beautiful in his element, gold and silver hair flying behind him. ‘Stay with me here,’ he cried as his tail flicked and flashed around her. ‘Stay and be my muse. We can make such music together.’

‘I can’t.’ She was laughing and crying at once, confused but exhilarated. ‘I want to, but how can I? I’m a mere mortal.’

Llyr paused beside her, stroking her forehead, while his other hand stroked her back. She let herself relax against his mesmerising hands. Her eyes started to close. She began to feel sleepy. So sleepy.

Something was shining through her closed eyes. The sun. She was sprawled in bed, tangled in the sheet. She put a hand up to her hair. It was damp and sea-salty. It really had happened.

No one believed her of course. Not even Jane, who embraced the alternative and the mystical.

‘You’d probably overdone the sun and had a crazy dream,’ she said.

But Mattie knew it was real – that Llyr was real.

They have been together for three moons now. He has been to her cottage since the first time, but not for long and only on the flood tide. The effort is too much for him. On the ebb tide, they go swimming, down into his world, his world of sea colours and unknowable music. His lovely world of tranquillity. She lives for those times.

When they are apart, he still speaks to her. If the sea is stormy, she knows Llyr is making music which is deep and low. If the sea is kind, his music is light and high. They say the fishermen know Llyr’s music.

Mattie has made a decision. Tonight she is going to stay with him. For ever. Down there is where she belongs.

the end

Cornish Writing Challenge: Meet runner-up Julia Macfarlane

The first Cornish Writing Challenge ran from April-June, and drew in a variety of excellent short stories. Read on to find out more about runner-up Julia Macfarlane, and read her submission, Cornwall For A Change.

Julia

After a varied career, encompassing time as a tax inspector, a French-German translator, and management positions in various universities, Julia packed in work at way too young an age, to ensure the husband didn’t have too easy a retirement. In a bid to escape his task-list, he has since written four novels and Julia has talked about finishing one. In the meantime, she runs Bognor Regis Write Club and has produced their first anthology, a ghost tour of Chichester and a collection of her own short stories.

What inspired you to start writing?

I always believed I would be a writer, since I was a little kid. As an adult, I’ve had phases of writing or not writing, dependent on how much of my life was being eaten up by my job. Now I’m retired (early), I’m having a writing phase again.

What do you wish you’d known about the publishing process?

I wish I’d started trying to find a publisher earlier, although perhaps I would have given up writing in despair if I had. It’s so easy to self-publish now, but doing your own marketing is such a chore!

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Just do it. Write every day, but also read critically other people’s stuff. How did they write that to get that emotional effect? Also, take advantage of free online courses on writing techniques. There are a lot of companies out there making money from our desire to be a better writer, but there is still plenty of free stuff, too.

Tell us more about Cornwall For A Change. Where did the inspiration come from?

Oh dear. I had just been on a holiday to Amsterdam with my sister and mother. We had a conversation about where to go next year and why. I like writing about the humorous dynamics of family relationships and the undertones.

What is your connection to Cornwall?

My husband’s family live there, and we used to have annual holidays to Wadebridge with the kids until his mum died. Lovely memories and lovely places.

What’s next for you? 

I need to better promote the 2 books I’ve produced this year, and need to get the next Bognor Regis Write Club Anthology ready for October, and WRITE MY NOVEL!!  My husband has produced 4 while I’ve messed about with short stories and other distractions.

What are you currently reading?

Just finished rereading Nicholas Nickelby – I’m a big Dickens fan. I set myself the challenge of reading everything Thomas Hardy wrote in chronological order. Took me 2 years. Now I’m doing the same with Dickens, but I read modern stuff in between to cleanse the palate. Absolutely love the cynical style of Lionel Shriver, and give away copies of her The Post Birthday World to anyone who I think will appreciate a well-crafted story with characters that step off the page. I also think Kate Atkinson is a master of the craft.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I bought a cockapoo puppy in January. Lulu is the light of my life. My husband is totally smitten with her as well. We are members of the Bognor Regis Ramblers, the Chichester Natural History Society, and we are learning Spanish because our son lives in Madrid.We spoil our 2 granddaughters who live nearby with our daughter and husband as often as possible. Oh, and we socialise A LOT.

Lastly, and most importantly, jam or cream first?

Jam and then a big blob of Cornish clotted cream. Yum! If you don’t need a napkin for your hands and face afterwards, you didn’t do it properly.

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Read on for Julia’s wonderful submission, Cornwall For A Change.

“We thought Cornwall this year, mum?”

Rita lowered her magnifying glass to the Express crossword page and peered at her daughters.

“Cornwall?”

“Yes, you know, Bodmin, Truro, Newquay, Torquay..”

“I think Torquay is in Devon,” Jane interrupted.

“Whatever. So, what do you think, Mum?”

“Why Cornwall all of a sudden?” Rita’s tone was peevish.

Marilyn forced her voice to remain calm. “For a change. For somewhere new.”

“Why change this year?”

“Mum,” it was Jane’s turn to encourage a positive response from their mother. “It’s your eightieth. We wanted to make the annual holiday this year a bit more special.”

“Just going away is special enough for me. Isn’t Cornwall a long way away?”

“It’s about five hours in the car, Mum, but we’ll break it up with a couple of stops.”

“You’ll need more than a couple with my bladder.”

“We can take as many as you want or need. So what do you think?”

“I think it’s a lot of fuss when you’ve had as many birthdays as I’ve had.”

Marilyn’s turn again: “Eighty is special, mum, and you’ve said you don’t want a party. So we thought Cornwall would be a treat for you. You can visit all the places you visited with Dad when you were on your honeymoon.”

“I can’t remember them after all this time. I remember it rained!”

“Well, it might not rain this time. What did you do last time?”

“Let me see – we went to the zoo at Newquay, on a boat trip to see the puffins, and we had fish and chips on the seafront. “

“There you go, then! We could do all those things again.”

“I don’t like boats; don’t even like the sea that much.”

“Ok, what would you like to do?”

“Why can’t we do what we always do?”

“But Mum, we’ve been to Buxton every year since Dad – passed away. Are you not ready for a change?”

“I thought you girls liked Buxton?”

“It would be nice to have a change,” admitted Jane.

“Well, it’s up to you two. You’re the ones who have to take me.” Rita sighed and opened up her paper. The two middle-aged daughters exchanged glances.

“If we go to Buxton, would you like to do anything special there?”

“I do like the well dressing competition.” Her face brightened at the thought. The daughters sighed in unison, memories of their mother disparaging each and every well dressing design as not being as good as last year’s, the one around the corner, when she was a girl, as good as her WI group could have managed, and so on and so on. “And can we stay at that nice farmhouse outside town again? I do like to see her little hens pecking around; and she always gives you fresh milk for your room. Not like that long-life muck we got in Alnwick that time. Wasn’t that the last time we had a change?” Change was uttered like other people might utter murder or catastrophe.

“The farmhouse.” Jane looked at Marilyn who cocked an eyebrow in challenging response. “The farmhouse is a long way out of the town, Mum. It means one of us has to drive back after dinner each evening.”

“It doesn’t do either of you any harm to go without a half bottle of wine of an evening now and again.” Marilyn opened her mouth to protest but her mother was already moving on. “In my day, nice women didn’t drink in public, didn’t go into bars on their own,” she cocked an admonishing eye at her eldest daughter, Jane, “and they certainly didn’t go gallivanting off with a new husband every decade, just for the hell of it.”

Jane slammed down the brochure of Cornwall that was meant to be the next stage of their holiday offer. Marilyn placed a restraining hand on her arm.

“Right, mum, Buxton it is. Don’t you agree, Jane?”

“Oh, yes, Buxton is fine. I’ll ring Mrs Davies for our usual rooms.” Sarcasm dripped from each syllable. She pivoted, to start her flounce from the room.

“Lovely, I’m always telling Mary what great girls I have,” smiled her mother, magnanimous in victory. “Cornwall, indeed!”

the end

Cornish Writing Challenge: Meet runner-up Aidan McNally

The first Cornish Writing Challenge ran from April-June, and drew in a variety of excellent short stories. Read on to find out more about runner-up Aidan McNally, and read his submission, Safe Harbour.

Born Dublin Ireland, very much the countryside region of the wonderful capital city. The 70’s and 80’s has proven to be the most awesome time to grow up.

I never set out to write it all out, it just happened in my life and there have been events that even I cannot believe ever happened. The highs and lows remain unimaginable.

With some time spent travelling and living abroad, many things and much of life has been observed and lived. It has all been put down to share in the first time book TWO Sons TOO Many.

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What inspired you to start writing?

I have experienced some terrible tragedies to which I could not in hindsight believe or figure them out, then I reflected on all occurrences in my short life and began to find it all so, not only unbelievable, but unimaginable. I wrote it all down to see could I convince myself. The notes became manuscript, and ms. became book.

What do you wish you’d known about the publishing process?

The publishing process, to be quite honest the entire editing process, I have had two versions of less edited work uploaded and sold numerous copies to where the reviews were kind as they felt the story, but to see criticism for the editing was a shock. I was assured the correct files were the available ones. They were not. So check it, check it, and check it again.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Any aspiring writer, such as myself, hmmm. Write and write some more, never give up really. Keep going and keep doing it. When it makes the least sense, perhaps you have nailed it. Perhaps.

Tell us more about Safe Harbour. Where did the inspiration come from?

I have spent a great number of years at sea as a commercial fisherman, and the sea and it harshness represents life in an oh so true way. I believe many people just never see it from out on the ocean and cannot imagine how real and raw it really is.

What is your connection to Cornwall?

Only a respect for the men (editor’s note: and women!) who sail the seas. Of course I have always had a great feeling for anyone from there. Warm friendly people. I too have grown up in Ireland in a village by the sea.

What’s next for you?

Keep on spreading the word on my memoir TWO Sons TOO Many. Working on new, more younger audience book. Title unknown. Have ideas but will wait till theth coming together of all the scribbles.

What are you currently reading?

Currently I am focused on writing and other daily chores type stuff. Time has been limited, with long evenings. Reading is on the shelf. Reliving some of my old paths for my current writing project.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I love peace and quiet, and focussing on – or more like trying to practise the art of, or whatever it is called – of finding a now moment here and there. Meditation in micro seconds I guess. Looking for the moments in every day, week or month.

Lastly, and most importantly, jam or cream first?

Great question. “Devon knows, how they make it so tasty.”

You can find TWO Sons TOO Many on Amazon in Kindle or paperback. Aidan also writes on his Goodreads blog, and can be found on Twitter: @TWOsonsTOOmany

Read on for Aidan’s brilliant submission, Safe Harbour.

There is nothing like that lick of the lips when your face just gets battered again by the sea. We are to-ing and for-ing hard now. The planks in our little fishing trawler just might not hold up to this storm.

I stand out on the side deck peering to see through the heavy ocean spray and let the captain know if anything should appear in the distant night, Rob watches portside me to starboard. Is it rain on spray from the heavy swells? Either way that sea salt tastes as strong as it smells each time I take a face full.

Only to imagine six hours ago we were fishing away in the calmer waters of the Celtic sea, hauling the nets and the abundance of fish had me and Rob planning our week ashore next week. How we would spend our money and who we might see out for a few drinks.

The daydreaming flows when working away on the deck of a boat, the chasing the girls and the hardy drinking, all goes hand in hand in a fisherman’s life.

Now tonight in this storm dreams have faded fast as we stare down this ferocious storm. All the rigging is howling and with each wave the fears, are we gone this time?

Captain Rock is hard on helm with his adjusting our speed each time we rise high on the crest of every crucial wave, these are like slabs of concrete rushing towards us 40 to 50 feet tall.

Rock has been at SEA all his life like myself and I put in him the confidence of the gods to man the wheel, although Rob keeps watch behind me over on the port side, he holds the stern mast with both hands, I can’t help but continue my own act of we will be ashore soon. I saw it in captains face earlier when our forward mast cracked from a rogue wave just ahead of this storm, fear. We will battle this storm as we continue up the face of each swell now, Rock steers us along.

No time for daydream now though. I am holding firm also the aft cabin door as I lean out squinting to see anything at all. Not a sight just a dark black night with howling winds, must be storm force ten now and each wave breaking across our bow. Dreams have now turned to will I ever see her again.

Cannot and must not let Rock catch me worried and for sure there will be no good come of it if our new crewman Rob sees worry on my face.

The deck is awash every time one slab of a wave crashes down across our bow, I can feel captain Rock breathe a sigh each time as if his throttle hand is doing his breathing now. Drives her fast up the face of each wave and slows her right back as we dive across the crest.

As I hold tight it does come to mind how all those folks at home in their beds right now, listening to the heavy rains pound or their Windows, they have no clue we are out here in this, their fish supper from the chip shop at the weekend. Will they miss us or just order a burger instead. A fisherman’s life indeed, risking our life every time we throw the ropes off and head out to sea.

“Focus man!” Captain Rock caught me out and as he is hanging off the wheel, we exchange a look, he and I both know this might be our last one.

Some lightning starts cracking across the sky only to show us the real daunting size of the seas right now, taller and more green are the seas now, white water breaking in all directions, we battle on hoping not to roll over on any of these swells.

When our mast broke earlier it had taken out all the antennas we use for radio signalling and radar equipment which is how we would normally deal with driving the boat back home or even send out a distress call to emergency services, without those antennas we are just three men on a boat in the middle of ferocious oceans all secretly praying deep inside.

I see it, I see it, Rob yells out. I hold tightly to the hand rail as I shuffle across the deck to him, Captain Rock is screaming aft to us where? “God Damm it where?” Up we go another big wave and down with water white all around us, I roar back to Rock let me find out as I pass the aft cabin door. Though Rob is only standing 12 to 16 feet away it is probably easier to stand up in a roller coaster ride than shuffle across this deck tonight.

Back there, back there Rob is starring behind us as I reach him with a lunge to grab hold of the mast. One hand around the mast and the other linked to Rob’s arm. My hair soaked flat across my eyes and the salt water running hard across my face I catch a glimpse of that beacon light. Warm smiles tickle my insides though 30years at SEA experience tells me “we’re not home yet” I say to Rob.

Port side, west northwest of us I roar out to Rock.

Having clambered back into the wheelhouse I point to the light and Rock tells me with just a look, how are we gonna turn down this swell to run back there?

“We might not make it if we steer across this swell” he says I know but we can go a little further east and try take a chance to put it on our stern and surf our way home? That’s my suggestion.

“Rob get in here!” Roars Rock as he works the throttle speed.

“Go check on him and get him in here safe he tells me”.

Every time a swell from the sea hits us now is like an earth quake, a thud first then spray and water everywhere, all blocks and tackle and rigging chomping like church bells, out of tune.

Rob makes it back inside and I meet him in the galley, he is soaked to the skin as am I. I laugh at his eager expression, “don’t worry laddie, all in a day’s fishing” I can tell he has nerves of steel but he just doesn’t know it yet as the calibre and magnitude of this storm is probably one of the worst of the two or three I have ever seen. My nervous laugh is to calm me more than Rob as he is full of the innocence, as long and Rock and myself stay calm well it must be just normal, so obvious how he feels.

In the wheelhouse now we are three, watching for the flash of the lighthouse beacon.
It is time says Rock and with a full burst of throttle and rolling the helm from hand to hand we go up like an airplane, the floor beneath us feels like it is just gonna keep rising vertical, Rob falls from his standing and rolls to port side across the floor. I have my feet wedged to a cupboard and Rock screams loud “hang on fellas”

A wave crashes against our side putting water crashing through the wheelhouse window. “Get up ya bitch” Roars Rock and round she comes, our little trawler made the turn. Down we come crashing into the water below us. With our now broken window we can hear the spray of the water so loud. The wind is screaming through the wheelhouse window as we surf ahead of the storm.

All the same worries still exists as to will the next swell sink us if it breaks across our stern but with this storm behind us now we can run a lot faster and our rolling motion has changed from being picked up and slammed down to more of a pushed along with might, picked up a little less and only the broken window lets us know of all the rigging banging and clattering up above.

The beacon is getting closer now and Rock knows his way well from here, he lets a big cheer “we made it lads” as we round the beacon lighthouse to head for the harbour proper.
The calmer waters of the harbour not only settle the boat underneath us but all of our private fears. We made it once again coming in safe and sound, the dark hours of early morning and all the houses on the hillside just the odd light can be seen. Most folks sleeping can only dream of the adventure we just had. Will they know what it took or even what it takes to get the fresh cod for their supper this weekend?

Cornwall ya beauty as we throw the ropes to the dock wall.

the end

Introducing Christopher Joyce, winner of the Cornish Writing Challenge 2017

It is my great pleasure to introduce Christopher Joyce, whose short story Mama’s Gonna Float The Gypsum won the very first Cornish Writing Challenge! You can read his story on Frost Magazine here.

Christopher Joyce, from Chichester in West Sussex, has been a teacher, waiter, once made Venetian blinds, and has worked in a steel works. He is best known for his series of children’s books, ‘The Creatures of Chichester’, where the city’s animals solve the problems created by the Twolegs living there. You can find out more on his website.

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To celebrate his win, Chris has given an interview to us here at The Bandwagon. Read on to find out more about the winner of the Cornish Writing Challenge 2017!

What inspired you to start writing?

Moving to Chichester, which has such an iconic Cross at the centre of the city. It seemed the obvious place for secret liaisons to take place. As I had been a teacher of 8 to 12 year olds, it seemed sensible to write for that age group. Hence ‘The Creatures of Chichester’ were born.

As an independent author, what do you wish you’d known about the process before publishing your own books?

The need to spend so much time on marketing your book. The great thing is you have complete control and can run price promotions, change the covers, run targeted advertising through Facebook or Amazon, and tweet away to your heart’s content. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and there is a lot of help out there for people starting out.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Read before you write. Once I had decided to write for children, I spent a lot of time reading kids’ books. Not the ones I remember from years ago, but current stories. The same applies to any genre. I made notes about the fonts used, word count and vocabulary used. I also decided to make my printed books dyslexic friendly by using a large sans-serif font and left justifying the text.

Tell us more about Mama’s Gonna Float The Gypsum. Where did the inspiration come from?

After viewing the picture prompts, I slept on it and woke up with this bizarre sentence in my head. I googled if there were gypsum mines in Cornwall and was amazed to see there were, so I decided to go with the flow. Once I looked again at the picture of the books in the phone box I had the idea for how the story would end. So I wrote it backwards, in effect.

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Picture prompt

What is your connection to Cornwall?

I was born in South Wales, so Cornwall was always a favourite holiday destination. My brother met his wife and got married in Newquay. They had an anniversary party there recently where you had to come representing a decade. My partner and I chose to go as punks, so I have fond memories of trying on dog collars to the astonishment of the pet shop owners of Newquay.

What’s next for you? 

I’ve just finished editing the last book in ‘The Creatures of Chichester’ series. I plan to publish a children’s recipe book at Christmas. It’s called ‘The Alien Cookbook’ which features Nanaberry Rockets and Slime Dogs. I’ve also been asked to present some ideas to an editor of a leading publisher at the end of the year for another series of books for children. Nothing promised, but it could be very exciting.

What are you currently reading?

Kid’s books, mostly aimed at 10 to 13. I would love to write something that could reach boys in particular who tend to switch off at that age. I’ve also got Stephen King’s The Dead Zone as an audiobook ready for my holidays. I’m a big fan of audiobooks. Apparently it’s the biggest growing sector, with 29% growth last year. I’ve converted all my books to audio too.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I’m also a garden designer so I enjoy that. Chichester has a great theatre and we’re close to Goodwood too. This year our local authors’ group CHINDI ran a series of events as part of the Festival of Chichester. We had a Crime Writers Panel, workshops on creative writing and self-publishing, a ghost tour with stories written by local authors, and a sold out Words and Wine quiz.

Lastly, and most importantly, jam or cream first?

I went to teacher training college in Exmouth, so cream first for me.

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Website | Facebook | @creaturesofchi | Amazon

I think we can let Christopher off that last comment, even though jam first is most certainly the right way. Congratulations to Christopher and to all of our Cornish Writing Challenge entrants! Keep your eyes peeled for further interviews with the runners-up, and for the return of the Cornish Writing Challenge next year!

The Bandwagon: Closed for annual leave

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Hello dear readers!

Thank you so much for continuing to follow The Bandwagon, and engaging with us here. It’s always a blast.

I’m off on my hols as of tomorrow, so any queries sent through the blog or via email will have to wait until I return on the 3rd of July.

You can read all about our upcoming trip to Cornwall here. I’ll still be active on Instagram, so follow me and be jealous of our holiday (and our cats!).

Guest Blog: Cornish author Jill Turner describes how Fowey inspires her writing

Jill Turner is a Fleet Street journalist and novelist and single mum, now based much of the time around Fowey. Like Daphne du Maurier, she visited it as a child and vowed to return there to become a writer. She has taken part in the Fowey Festival and, like Daphne, is inspired by her coastal walk around the Fowey estuary.

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As a child been driven back to Cornwall, the gateway was never the ‘Welcome to ..” sign, or even the crossing of the Tamar Bridge, but the journey across the bleak no-man’s-land of Bodmin Moor.

It was there my imagination was sparked by my mother telling me of Dozmary Pool and its part in Arthurian legend as the home of the Lady of the Lake, and the final resting place of King Arthur’s magical sword. For me, the barrier between fairy tale and reality was broken. Dozmary Pool, Tintagel, Slaughterhouse, Camelford, all have made claims to England’s greatest legend and made me believe that somewhere, behind some invisible curtain, in that magical, mysterious county at the end of the country, King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table still lay sleeping.

So years later, it was to those legends that I returned when I wrote my first novel. On the surface, a tale of feral children described as an ‘urban Lord of the Flies’ and ‘Trainspotting for teens’ seems a long way from the wild landscapes of Cornwall. But a story needs a structure, and the Tales of King Arthur came into my thoughts. Getting young people reading is also one of my passions, so I wanted to try and encourage an interest in some of the classic literature, poetry, and art inspired by the Arthurian legend.

The Children of Albion tells the story of England’s lost children – some physically, some emotionally, but all living on the edges of life. Set in a present day sink estate, which becomes a microcosmic world where the struggles of life are intensified, the children try to create their own community of lost girls and boys inspired by the Arthurian ideal, while battling parental neglect, exploitation, and interference from the authorities. Led by the charismatic Albie and his ‘Artful Dodger’ sidekick Robbie (the 11-year-old narrator), the children of Albion aim for a hopeful, better future. But can the boys’ friendship see them all through?

“They say he is only sleeping,’’ Albie went on. ”Arthur and his knights are still around, in a cave somewhere deep in the country and when England needs him, Arthur will bring his knights back to save us.”

I thought for a bit. “He’d better hurry up, ain’t he?’’ Then I sat back and said,”Cool”. It was kind of what I’d been thinking about before. That’s kind of nice, innit? That there’s someone out there going to look after you. Take over. Sort it out. It’s kind of nice to think it, even if you know it’s all a load of crap.”   

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Amazon UK | Literature Works | @jilltwriter

 

Jill Turner is reading from The Children of Albion at the Great Estates Festival in Scorrier on June 3rd and 4th.

Although Jill was too late for this year’s Cornish Reading Challenge, I’m pleased to announce that she will be joining us for next year! Keep your eyes peeled for information in 2018.

Cornish Reading Challenge: Thank You!

As the third annual Cornish Reading Challenge comes to a close, I want to thank everyone who’s joined in and made it a success.

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To the authors, for their hard work and participation. This wouldn’t work if it wasn’t for you.

To the readers, who get involved and create a buzz. I hope you enjoy reading Cornish books as much as I do.

To the bloggers, who help us promote this challenge.

To everyone else, the businesses and bookshops and artists, who offered prizes and gave their time to this challenge.

I absolutely adore the Cornish Reading Challenge. As a Cornish maid at heart, I love revisiting the place I call home, through the books I choose to read. For three years now, this challenge has been a success, and I hope to keep hosting it every year.

If you have any thoughts on the challenge, or would like to send your suggestions for next year, email thebandwagonreviews@gmail.com