Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Babs Morton, 2nd place prize-winner in the 2011 Yeovil Literary Prize novel section - and an update from W4W. - Margaret Graham

Our W4W writing prize is now closed! Although we've had twenty fewer entries this year we've raised more money - because of the increased entry fee. We're wondering if the theme proved challenging and will perhaps try an open competition again next year.

The winners are to be announced on the website on 6th June together with final details of the money raised. What is already apparent is how high the standard is, how many more blokes have entered, and the increased number of memoir entries. Thank you, thank you, all of you who entered.

May I just ask that you check postage carefully. We've had a number of entries with inadequate postage - on A4 envelopes. This means we have to pay £1.09 in order to take receipt.

The skydive is booked, our weight and height are with Skydive London so chocs are being rationed. 3rd May is lift-off. We can't wait. But more on that as the weeks go by. Our thanks to Skydive London and to Lee Read who has sorted it. We thank him for his generosity and for making it easier for us - and harder to back out! As you all know 100% of every penny raised goes to the cause - we grannies are paying for ourselves but then why wouldn't we when it entails being strapped to a young man. The man is paying just for the  skydive!  To donate:  3 grannies and a man skydive

Today we welcome Babs Morton, who I had the pleasure of meeting at the inaugural Yeovil Literary Festival last year. Babs was placed second in the Yeovil Literary Prize in 2011 with Mrs Jones. As one of the founders of the Yeovil Literary Prize  I know only too well how tough the competition is, so well done!

So over to Babs who lives in Northumberland, a place close to my heart and the backdrop to my latest novel, out in October. I had a perfect week up there in the autumn of 2013 and it was good to be in my mum's pit village again - though no pits anymore.  So, off you go, Babs.

Firstly may I say thank you, Margaret, for the kind invite to pop in and chat.

I’m B.A Morton, Babs to my friends, a Geordie lass who escaped the hustle and bustle of Newcastle to live amidst the wonderful Northumberland National Park in Upper Coquetdale.
Babs (on the right) at the Yeovil Literary Festival 2013
I survived a varied career as a civil servant – hmm very exciting, nursery nurse – lets all sit on the mat, and kennel maid – get down Rover!, amongst other equally challenging positions, and now enjoy my part time role in the village GP surgery. I share my rural idyll with my long-suffering hubby, one naughty dog and a coop of very obliging chickens. When I hesitantly entered my debut novel Mrs Jones into the 2011 Yeovil Literary Prize I had no idea how that would transform my life. Mrs Jones, a fast paced, crime thriller set in New York, took second place in the novel category and that success helped launch my career as a published author. Mrs Jones proved to be a hit with readers and became an Amazon kindle best seller – gosh! who’d have thought it.?Certainly not me. The sequel Molly Brown followed shortly after and a third book is in the embryonic stage.

Now a member of The Crime Writers Association, and a self confessed crime fiction addict, I also write historical fiction. My Wildewood Chronicles trilogy is based on the history of my own cottage which was built on the foundations of a medieval chapel and crypt. My fourth book Bedlam, a psychological, horror thriller, was released in August.

I remain a friend and supporter of The Yeovil Literary Prize and I’ve twice made the long journey from the North East to help support and celebrate their valuable work in encouraging arts and literature. I remember vividly the moment when I learned of my success in The Prize and how the genuine encouragement of those who had judged Mrs Jones, empowered me to pursue my ambition as a writer. I feel honoured to be associated with them.

I confess to being one of the most technically challenged people you are likely to meet, however by some strange fluke I’ve managed to create a website of sorts. If you’d like to see what I’m up to and catch up with my work, here I am:

You can also meet my guests on the sofa at The Coffee House guest blog

Babs’ tips - aka what works for me. Are you sitting comfortably?

1.  I take inspiration from everything and everyone. An image, a phrase, a line from a song, even a remembered scent from long ago can trigger the imagination. Once I have it, I run with it and see where it takes me. Remember, you don’t have to have the whole concept before you begin.

2.  I try not to over-plan. I write as it comes to me. Whether in frantic disjointed action scenes or considered prose, I just get it down. You can go back and have great fun tidying up later. In fact it can be quite funny and/or alarming to discover what you scribbled down at four in the morning.

3.  I am the most chaotic person. I write everything on a wee little netbook on my knee, amidst the noise and chatter of daily life. It works for me. So, be happy with your own routine, whether that’s behind a locked door in your writer’s study or in a shed at the bottom of the garden. Whether you have a daily word quota or a chaotic free- for- all, don’t worry about what works for others. Whatever feels right for you; is right for your book.

4.  I confess to being a genre hopper. Life is mixed bag and I try to reflect that in my work. Try to resist squeezing your gorgeous, plump round peg of a manuscript into an industry standard, marketable, square hole. It’ll just get knocked out of shape and lose that thing that says it’s yours and makes it special. Go easy on yourself and write what you like to read. Chances are your reading preferences are representative of a proportion of the public anyway.

5.  Invest in your characters. Bring them to life. Imagine the best and worst moments in your life, the funniest and saddest occasions and use that experience to make your character’s emotions and actions believable. Believe me, it can be quite traumatic to bleed your emotional plasma onto the page, but your characters will love you for it. If you end up changing a scene because you realise your character just wouldn’t do or say what you’d planned for them, you know you’re doing something right.

6.  Read. Take inspiration from others. Learn the craft from those that make it look effortless. Recognise the understated wow factor in another’s work and think about how they did it.

7.  Pick yourself up. Rejection by an agent or publisher doesn’t necessarily mean your work isn’t good enough, just that it wasn’t right for them. Similarly, reviews good and bad are just one person’s interpretation of your work.

8.  Above all, have confidence in yourself and enjoy being a story teller.

B.A Morton - November 2013