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Kindness, Christmases, and Heart Surgery

Posted by Simon on 23rd, April 2017 at 10:17:16

You hear plenty in the press about social media and how trolls use it to be unpleasant. 

What you don't hear so much of is how the vast majority of people use it to be kind, warming and uplifting. 

I'll do my bit here to redress the balance a little, by saying how touched I was by everyone who got in touch to congratulate me on the publication of Justice Mirror this week. 

Every single message brought a big smile and a delightful buzz.

All the months of work, the planning, writing and editing were made real, and I felt as though it had all been appreciated. 

So publication day for me was like a series of Christmases.

First the book came out, then I received so many lovely messages of support... it was wonderful. 

And (another of the great things about being a writer...) there are more Christmases to come.

This week is the formal launch of the book, then there are more events after that. 

So, thank you one and all for your wonderful support. I'm enjoying the ride enormously. 

And let me just mention one particular Tweet, which managed to leave me touched, honoured, flattered and humbled, all at once - 

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How about that?

Taking time to send a kind and thoughtful message when you're in hospital awaiting major surgery. Wow. 

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That Moment

Posted by Simon on 15th, April 2017 at 16:28:20

So this is how it goes - 

You have the idea. 

You play with the idea. Day in, day out, for a few weeks. Test it, get a feel for it, get to know it. To see if it's the idea.

Then, if it is, you plan. For months. Six or so in my case, usually. The twists and turns, the characters, the subplot, the settings. 

Then you write. In a frenzy of release. About a hundred thousand words, more or less, give or take. In eight to ten weeks on average, for me. 

Then you re-write. And re-re-write. And re-re-re-write. And re-write some more. 

Then you take a deep breath. And send it to agents. And get rejected. And send it to more agents. And get rejected some more. 

But one day, you get accepted. And then you re-write, and re-re-write etc etc. And then take another, even deeper breath. And send it to publishers. 

And get rejected. And send it to more publishers. And get rejected some more. Etc etc.

But one day, you get accepted. You get a publishing deal. And then you re-write, and re-re-write etc etc. 

And argue over the title. And the cover. And the blurb. And the marketing strategy. And the promotional events etc etc. 

But then one day, one sweet day, after all those months, all that work, there's a knock at the door, just like happened to me this week. And... 

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You finally get your hands on the thing you've been working on for so long. It all becomes real. All the work is worth it in an instant. 

It's that time. That moment.  

And wow, what a moment.

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In Touch and Odd

Posted by Simon on 8th, April 2017 at 17:22:39

One of the great strengths of this new fangled online internet thing is how it can bring a writer closer to their readers. 

I love getting emails about my books, events and teaching. No matter what the content, they always tell me something. 

And one of the things they tell me loud and clear is that some of my readers are a little on the odd side. 

There's the lady who regularly berates me for how badly Dan can look after his poor dog, Rutherford. Going out at all hours and not giving him the attention he deserves. 

Then there's the man who tells me Claire is absolutely gorgeous, his fantasy woman (I'm rather fond of her myself to be honest) and that Dan should get on with settling down with her. 

But perhaps my favourite of the oddities is the reader who gets in touch every few weeks with another photo...

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This is the latest picture. She likes to tour second hand bookshops and pick up copies of my novels, then let me know where they've found their way to. 

Early in my writing career, I used to wonder about the quirks of the various readers who got in touch, and what it said about me and my books. 

These days, I'm very relaxed about it. 

I just remind myself that back in 2008, when I was first published, the editor said she'd taken me on partly because I was different, a bit quirky. 

So, it seems, are my dear readers. And long may it continue.

For who amongst us wants to be ordinary? 

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Libraries and Legacies

Posted by Simon on 2nd, April 2017 at 08:57:09

I've always loved libraries, but this week I found even more reasons to treasure them. 

I was asked to open the new library in Bodmin, Cornwall, which I very happily did - 

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And two things happened which made the day extra special - 

A couple I recognised made a point of grabbing me for a chat. They'd made a special effort to be at the opening, and I quickly found out why. 

They'd come along to an event I did about a year and a half ago when I'd spoken to their daughter, Alex. 

She wanted to start writing a book, but didn't know how you could possibly manage to put together a hundred thousand words, ie. one of the normal concerns budding writers struggle with. 

So I gave her my usual advice - 

Every year, when you get to December 31st and look back, how fast do you feel the year has passed?

Then imagine you'd written 275 words every day - just 275 - and by the end of the year... bingo! 

They wanted to thank me, because Alex had just finished her novel, and was delighted by it. 

That was a buzz enough. But then I was hit by another. 

A librarian told me she had been at a writing workshop I did a few years ago in Barnstaple, north Devon. The idea was to encourage some of those who came along to start up a writers' group. 

Which, she told me, they had. 

And even better, it went so well, that group gave rise to another three. 

By this point, I was getting dizzy with delight. 

That's one of my favourite highs of this writing life - the legacy you can leave. 

And as all good things are supposed to come in threes, take another look at the picture, above. 

That's a new generation of readers and writers, right there; youngsters who will come to treasure libraries, and the joy of words, thought, feelings and imagination. 

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Lessons for Life

Posted by Simon on 25th, March 2017 at 17:33:07

One of my favourite features of writing is how much it can teach you about life. 

I did an unusual event this week. It was for the South West Academic Trust, to 150 of the most gifted sixth formers from ten schools across the region. 

They asked me to do a two hour session, talking about my writing and journalism, but also "wider themes". 

I thought hard about whether to use this title, given its remarkable modesty, but went for it anyway - 

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And happily the title worked. It was a great ice breaker, and it certainly got their attention (you know how cool and hard to engage da yoof can be).

But also I could speak with integrity, and that came across. Because I genuinely meant what I was saying. So much I've learnt in the course of being a writer are lessons for life. 

We covered characterisation - how I imagine the people who feature in my books, and how that model can be used to help understand people in real life. 

We played a newsroom game - a demonstration of fast thinking, adaptability and prioritisation. 

We looked at famous headlines through the ages and what they showed us about the beautiful, but subtle art of communication. 

How to tell a story also featured - not just as a writer, but if you're putting together a job application, or even if you're out on a date. Whatever you do in life, you need to be able to tell your story, and do it well. 

We even looked at lateral thinking, from how to win a war with a Trojan Horse, to the Theory of Relativity, to university interviews.

All that in two hours (no wonder I was tired at the end.)

Everything I put into the session was a lesson learnt in my 25 years of working and writing life, and what was so uplifting was...

The number of youngsters who thanked me as they left, and were very kind about what I'd said. 

Which left me with a strong and happy memory of another lesson in life. 

I took a risk with the title of the session. It could easily have been laughed at and fallen flat. But it worked. 

And that thought will give me strength the next time I think about trying something innovative. 

If you don't ever try...

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