Category Archives: Non Fiction

Friday Writing Prompt

Inspired by my talk last weekend, and thinking about the close interaction between fact and fiction, here’s a prompt for you.

Take a key moment in history; so something that ‘literally’ stopped the world, not just your world, so let’s say, as is the case in my novel, the death of a president, maybe 911, Diana’s death, Elvis… ? and then write a short piece of ‘alternative history’ as if it never happened. So you will need to use fictitious characters perhaps or make it a memoir piece where the event affected you, but now let us see what happened if something else happened instead… So, for example, JFK Airport used to be called Idlewild and, in fact, this is the name of Mark Lawson’s alternative history novel, if Kennedy had not died as he did and make him the icon he is, would the airport still be called that? In fact, that is the case in this novel; Kennedy is still alive years later. Perhaps juxtapose what might have happened with what did happen, so some of you might even want to write two versions…? I will leave that to you! Allow your imaginations to run wild… and not be idle! See what I did there 🙂 Groan!

Happy Writing!

Happy Weekend!

Happy Being YOU!

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Rochester LitFest Rocks!

Don't forget to book your tickets! October 1st in Kent!

 

I had a great night last night. It was my first appearance at a literary festival and I hope not my last!

The venue the Nucleus Cafe is a trendy arts cafe in Chatham. If I lived closer I have a feeling the kind of place I’d be meeting writer friends! My north Wales writer friends would love it! I think Jaye has done a great job with this new festival that only started last year. Check out the website here: www.rochesterlitfest.com

 

Nucleus Arts Cafe, Chatham

The Venue (sorry slightly blurry photo taken by me!)

I wrote to a few festivals when I knew I was moving back to the south east proposing a talk about ‘Blurring the Lines between fact and fiction’. Jaye Nolan who organises the festival said yes, it fit her other talks and the rest I guess is history (literally!). I want to thank her for all her tremendous efforts and again if I was closer I would certainly like to be involved and help out. I will try to do more next year, perhaps spend the week with my brother so I can offer my support to the writers etc.

Jaye is pictured here (centre) at the event last night

Photo by Bill Gooch -- official photographer for the event, thanks Bill!

Photo by Bill Gooch — official photographer for the event, thanks Bill!

 

I hadn’t given this particular talk before, although I have talked about the subject matter a lot and it was part of my MA dissertation, how fact and fiction are not opposite ends of a spectrum but intimately woven into the fabric of how we tell stories. ‘Factual account’ — uses wiggly in the air finger thing — are often biased, spun from yarns, filled with opinion and conjecture while fiction does what it says on the tin and is created from imagination but needs fact for authenticity, right?

The venue was intimate and being a great fan of the coffee-shop culture (not enough of that on Canvey Island) it worked well for the talk. The first half I felt was slightly less coherent as I did jump about a little in subject, although the audience were kind and receptive and I felt enjoyed it from the great reaction in the break. The second half was more focussed and more engaging. By then everyone had relaxed, we’d chatted and everyone wanted to interact so having thrown out the odd question it then became really interactive and I think it worked well. So I think I need more of that in the first half when I do this again. I am wondering about hosting an event on Canvey — ideas machine now flowing!

I loved meeting the people, some readers, some also writers and I already see friend requests and followers on Twitter, so I hope to have made some new friends!

Another photo thanks to Bill -- do check out his FB page here:  LINK

Another photo thanks to Bill — do check out his FB page here: LINK

 

I am still buzzing from the event and the engaging conversation and I can’t wait to do it all again!

It’s been a crazily busy few days since my move, so busy I can not wait for a couple of days just to relax. I have worked this week too although not written but my plan is to do a rare thing and take tomorrow off after my workout as I have a full day at the Southend Book and Art Fair this Saturday. And next week will be a normal working and writing week, which I need! I also seem to have a short story buzzing like a fly inside my head — perhaps one for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize I wonder …

So I will leave you with the last two photos from Bill Gooch, and will share some my brother took next week!

Thanks again to Jaye and the festival for having me!

Chatman 3 2014 Chatman 2 2014

Clearly making an important point!

 

Thanks Rochester LitFest!

 

 

 

 

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When truth is elusive

Lots of thoughts buzzing this weekend as I made preparations for my talk at the Rochester Literary Festival in ten days’ time. When I wrote While No One Was Watching I realised more than any other work, that truth is not something absolute and is defined by context. Yet we would tend to believe truth is a defined thing: a fact or belief  about something known to have happened. And the lie is considered a deliberate distortion of truth. But when truth is open to interpretation and is in fact really only in the mind of the believer, and a lie is only really a lie if a deliberate act, then is there such a thing as absolute truth?

When it comes to the Kennedy assassination, the quintessential conspiracy theory, truth is perhaps even more elusive. How do you know what  to believe when you have credible books by experts, equally convincing, but saying the exact opposite thing. Is what we believe weighted by how many books we read that say lone assassin versus how many say conspiracy — is that a known entity defined by how many books are actually out there and is that a figure biased by what people actually believe — or is what we think just how many books we happened to read? #random? I mean you can’t read them all? My science brain is kicking in, having worked in research so I know how many credible sources you need to say something might be probable and the errors through biased reading before you even examine the credibility of the source and author bias — I mean, even ‘factual’ books are little more than opinion a lot of the time, not absolute truth.

So I realise that there is truth in history, the known facts — Kennedy was assassinated at 12.30pm CST, on 22nd November 1963 in Dallas Texas as we rode in his motorcade, by gunshot wounds but even when I go to write from an assassin’s bullet I realise we are not moving away from absolute truth — how many assassins? The placement of the apostrophe suddenly becomes significant. So now we enter the realms of speculation and conjecture. Probability in fact!

I amassed huge amounts of information when I did my reading for While No One Was Watching. Huge. Far more than I needed, given the assassination is a catalyst for action and yes it is integral to plot but it is not an assassination novel per se. But the scientist in me has to have all the details. But truth remained elusive. The ‘factual’ books nothing more than conjecture. And while historical novelists receive critique from historians for their ‘bad version of history’; it’s a novel, by definition it’s ‘fantasy’ ; the author executing ‘creative license’ and since it means no one really knows which part is real and which is fantasy, I propose the novelist creates their own version of truth.

Stephen King claims that ‘Fiction is the truth inside the lie.’ I like that. I like that a lot. The novel is, in its purest form ‘made-up’. But, as in my novel and just about most novels you’ll read, it still needs some facets of reality to work. In my case, fact and fiction are woven together so tightly in places you can’t see the join! So the fiction writer is not so much the fantasist but the creator of a different type of truth. The truth of the story and the role of the fiction writer is to make the reader believe.

A recent psychological study said that the way we read fiction and non-fiction is different. We tend to be far more critical about non-fiction. And if we are emotionally engaged and immersed in a story — we are far more likely to believe it. And indeed the writer of the novel has failed if their reader does not believe it, right? The rules are the rules the reader has created; an un-truth in reality, look at the alternative history novels like Mark Lawson’s Idelwild, Kennedy didn’t die that day but the reader will believe that as the ‘truth’ inside the lie — right? Of course they know here he did die. But what if the fictional elements are more subtle than that, a possibility the reader hadn’t considered before that changes his view about the historical truth?

Lydia Collins in my novel is psychic and even friends who confess to initially having reservations about a ‘psychic’ narrator, said by a page or so in they found her beguiling as a narrator and believed every word. So I did what I was supposed to, right? Phew. But what about my suggestions about what really happened that day at the grassy knoll?

So there lies the crux of the question I pose at my talk, this being the case, where the factual elements and the fictional ones are so close together, will my readers also believe, if even for a fleeting moment, that there really was a little girl called Eleanor Boone who disappeared from the grassy knoll and it had to be a plot to kill Kennedy or why else is she still missing?

The question therefore is: Do fiction writers affect what we believe about history?

What do you think? What films/books/plays etc. used real  events and changed what you believed about the real event? (Even if it wasn’t actually true.) I would love to know … for my talk! Please email me or reply to this post! writer@debzhobbs-wyatt.co.uk

Have a great day everyone.

Don't forget to book your tickets! October 1st in Kent!

Don’t forget to book your tickets! October 1st in Kent! BOOK 

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Keeping the dream alive … responding to criticism

I was reading an article this morning about how we receive and how we give feedback and criticism and it made me think.

As a writer I am no stranger to having my work picked over. Fortunately those who have, have always been encouraging even if there was plenty to address.

I also give feedback as part of my day job and I like to think I have developed a style that is encouraging and empowering, but at the same time, honest. It has to be.

What I did was look at what I want from a critique, honesty first and foremost, but no point in saying what’s wrong if you can’t offer a fix, an idea, a suggestion. This is where I think various things combine — me being a writer myself, the fact I work in publishing (albeit on a small scale) but I have worked with lots of stories and lots of writers to know what works, being a reader helps, and my MA alongside numerous other courses so I have a strong grasp of what works and what techniques to use to make things work better. And like you, I return to books and I read magazines and I make sure the advice I give is as solid as it can be.

I once had someone critique my work who just said things like — nah, boring, cut, don’t believe you — and no offer of why or how. I found it demoralising. And I vowed I would never do that or make someone feel that way.

Yes I have worked on manuscripts by very new writers that need a lot of work, but handled right, the comments and suggestions and advice make it clear they have a lot to learn, but a good teacher empowers and makes the student want to learn, and doesn’t demoralise or make them feel like giving up forever.

It helps I am, a ‘people’ person, or I like to think I am, so I approach the job with passion and enthusiasm and do go the extra mile for people. I love it when they tell me they can see the improvement and when they start to have success.  And since I have my publishing contacts, the various projects I am involved in, like CafeLit, I do offer ways to kick-start careers where I can and have suggested they submit to various collections.

Not everyone can teach, I like to think I have the balance right between honesty and encouragement. All I can say is it seems to work and we start the official first full week of work this year, I have a full board of jobs and lots are new clients, as well as familiar faces — so I look forward to what we can do together.

2014 is going to be a great year, come along and see!

Have a great week everyone!

1455061_614034055330223_967283944_nPs the kindle version is still 99p!

 

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Where were you?

Can you send something (less than 1000 words, can be as short as you wish) about where you were the day you heard that Kennedy had been assassinated?

Or, if like me, you weren’t born, what someone else has told you?

What was happening at the same time in your or their lives?

How did the news affect you and those around you?

I want something that captures the time, the emotion, the shock and I will select 4 to be posted here on the 50th anniversary, November 22nd 2013 throughout the day.

The one that I like the most, perhaps the most poignant, sad, funny even, will be selected to receive a free signed copy of While No One Was Watching.

Please email me your entry as a Word doc to writer@debzhobbs-wyatt.co.uk before midnight November 20th.

And please do pass this on …

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Fingers in lots of pies …

Although I  see myself first and foremost as a writer, my editing and critiquing  job also plays very much into that and I am quite convinced that it has made me a better writer.

Editors  comes from all sorts of backgrounds, some have degrees in English, some studied journalism, some learned by being hired by a publishing house. And very much like writing, when I started to work as an editor I was lacking in self-confidence because a part of you always feels like a fraud! Am I really qualified to do this?

Scientific writing was very much a part of my job for a lot of years and creative writing was a hobby until the obsession took over. I learned to edit or perhaps first of all critique by being part of a group and later studying for my MA in Creative Writing. Working at Bridge House Gill kindly gave me free rein on a number of projects and taught me the basics of copy editing. I then did a course on copy editing and proof reading although ironically I found it hard to get the assignments done in time as I had too much copy editing and proof reading work! But the course taught me mostly what I’d already learned although the proof reading symbols were new and I often have to use with one of the publishers who hires me regularly.

I think the biggest validation has to be repeat business and I have so much of that both privately and with the small presses that hire me. My confidence has perhaps not soared to tackling a big publishing houses but then do I need to? I am a writer who edits and crits and publishers books and does workshops to fund the writing career and I don’t want a career solely as an editor.

I still feel like a fraud sometimes — as if I should have a degree in copy editing or something, if one exists, but I keep being re-hired so I guess the doing is the proof in the end. And like writing, I continually learn from the process.

I also worry about missing things but since I have also worked with an editor I see that to as humans we always miss some things. That’s why you have a copy editor and a proof reader and often you need more than one.

It is great though that so many clients say nice things — phew and of course a huge validation came from an agency’s approval of my work.

So I feel happy and confident in my role.

That said, I can not tell you how many times I have read the stories in the new Wild n Free book, even before the document went to the designer, to try to avoid lots of changes post design. I had another set of eyes on it as well and still when I read the PDF this weekend I found a fair few things I’d missed! And it also requires checking pagination, uniformity of headers, contents same headings with capitals in the same places throughout and in contents etc. There’s more to it than you realise! And I wonder if I looked at it all again today what else I might see? I hope nothing. But it went for the final stage with these corrections to the designer yesterday and I will have one final look before I sign off on it and send it to the printer! I worry about children’s names and check and double-check so many times it’s like checking you have your passport at the airport and I know the heart rate will be up when I finally press that button to upload the book and later when I accept the hard copy proof!

Sometimes I wonder about this phrase ‘jack of all trades’ and would love it if I could employ external editors and proof readers on projects like this where I am too close to be as objective as I might like. But since I lose money on this project usually I can’t afford to do that! I hope the end result will be perfect but I have  come to learn that nothing ever is quite perfect! Although I do beat myself up and have paid for revisions because I know there is a grammar error I missed!  I guess what being this ‘jack of all trades’ at least has taught me, on a small-scale anyway, is  how publishing works and I know this also helps a huge amount.

It is a busy old time for me as it seems there are FIVE titles out next month connected to yours truly! How’d that happen?

The biggie of course and enough in itself is the novel.

The same day I hope Wild n Free Too is out.

Around the same time I also hope the Springbok Anthology I co-edited and have a story in, is out.

Around the same time as well the eBook with my winning Bath Short Story (no not a story about a bath!) is out.

Oh and while it is supposedly out I am still waiting for my copy of You, Me and a Bit of We from Chuffed Buff Books that is out about now!

Woo hoo! November looks like one big launch party!

But I still have to work and do lots of marketing things and also at the moment, as well as sorting all the details for my launch events, our writing group has a showcase evening the week after my Bangor launch. So while I will take a lesser role and work with the team I did write a press release and am sorting copy for posters etc. And work out a running order for the event. It is all go but I love it!

Anyone who is in Wales or would like to come to my Bangor launch I am attaching the poster below. Also in Welsh on as I live in a bilingual society even though I have to confess to my Welsh being no more than a few diochs and panads! (Look it up!) So many thanks to a friend for the translation! Posters now in situ. A few more still to be walked around!

So yeah it is busy — but would I have it any other way? Of course I bloody wouldn’t!!! And Welsh friends — the Bangor Cellar Writing Group Showcase evening is October 30th, 7 pm at the Gwynedd Museum & Art Gallery (near the library) and all welcome to that as well! I will have a poster soon!

All this and I am also plugging the new Paws Competition! What fun!

 

Have a great week all!

Bangor flyer English

 

Bangor flyer welsh

 

Ps Essex people, the launch is on November 22nd a poster will be on here for that as well!

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Why do we all love a conspiracy?

Or maybe we don’t.

But many do.

I touched on this once before when I was talking about the role of fact in fiction and how I found myself embroiled in conspiracy theories when I was researching for my novel.

The reason I’m thinking about this now is because of the book I’m editing about Lockerbie  a totally riveting forensic analysis.  I might even be tempted to buy this. I won’t be credited as editor but I will look out for it as we approach the 25th anniversary this December.

I grew up naively believing that what’s recorded as news has to be true but of course we all know that’s not true.

But I wonder why we have this fascination in conspiracies rather than accepting the simpler less implicating explanation? Aside from distrust in what authorities tell us, I wonder if a part of us actually wants conspiracies to be true — it taps into  some primeval fascination? And as I was editing this book on Lockerbie, all kinds of seeds were being planted that I’m sure might play a role in a future novel.

All this said I haven’t read many conspiracy novels and I wouldn’t say my novel is particularly a conspiracy novel which conjures thoughts of FBI, CIA and cops. What about you?

Here’s the list that came up as the best conspiracy novels on Amazon — and I have to confess to not reading any of these– but I might.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Top-10-Conspiracy-Novels/lm/R1QTCCVAPDO5PX

But perhaps for me what really presses my buttons are ‘real’ stories where fact and fiction work together? Where we take what we know and what we think might’ve happened and add our own spin? And I guess that’s exactly what I did with While No One Was Watching.

Since I started following hashtags and Google alerts on Kennedy it’s amazing how many non-fiction books are coming out in time for the anniversary. Here’s a link to The Book Seller, an article from last week:  http://www.thebookseller.com/news/publishers-commemorate-jfk-anniversary.html

And I am guessing there will be several books out similar to the one I’m currently editing about Lockerbie. Anniversaries do spark a flurry of books.

I did tell The Bookseller they missed off my novel. Cheeky but hey!

Well I am getting ready for my little trip hence the early post and it will be short post tomorrow with some lovely links before an unusual summer break for a week with none of my ramblings! Yay you say! Have a great day!

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