You know when you just have those ‘argh’ times?
You’re up to your eyeballs in ‘stuff’.
Not work stuff, just ‘stuff’.
Yup. That’s been me for the last couple of weeks.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had work stuff too, but the ‘stuff’ stuff has had an impact.
The best of it, though, was Bloody Scotland.
Oh. My. Goodness.
It was magnificent.
I started my weekend on Friday 21st September with the Crime Writing Masterclass.
This was a full day of writerly stuff. First there was a talk by Graeme MacRae Burnet (Sunday Herald Culture Awards Author of the Year 2017). It was wonderful to sit in a room listening to a real writer (I’m a writer, but until I’ve written a novel I’ll never consider myself one) and he was SO interesting. He actually set a theme that ran throughout the whole weekend – that old chestnut: to plan or not to plan. He lets the characters lead him organically through the story, which is what I tend to do, but there was a difference of opinion on this all through the festival.
Next we had AK Benedict and her section on bringing your prose to life. This was a revelation. Not because I actually got to put pen to paper for the first time in eons, but because she writes the way I do! She uses smell, sound and touch to tune into her writing. We worked through exercises that mirrored the way I work when I’m writing, and it was great to actually see others do this. I listen to music my characters (or customers) listen to, or surround myself with sounds that would surround them. I use smells, sounds and touch to connect. I’m not weird after all – hurrah!
After a lovely lunch at the Golden Lion Hotel in Stirling we sat down to an Alison Belsham and Lorna Hill synopsis and pitch masterclass. I also scared myself witless when I decided to volunteer to read my pitch to the room – after a fair number of very eloquent writers did the same. Let’s just say I’m not going to be going on stage any time soon! (B- must do better).
Finally we attended an industry panel consisting of an agent, and representatives of a small publisher and a large publisher. It was interesting to hear how they look for submissions that show commitment to writing, including having manuscripts edited and critiqued before publishers are approached.
Take note writers – it’s official, editors aren’t just there for self-pubbers!
It was also explained how it’s still hard to get your book accepted by publishers if it’s already been self-published, so writers really do have to think carefully about whether traditional or self-publishing is for them.
And that was the end of the Masterclass.
What a brilliant set up for the rest of Bloody Scotland!
I won’t go into detail about the weekend but here are a few of my personal highlights, in no particular order:
I was initially worried that I’d be an imposter among all the real writers but my mind was soon put to rest. I met the lovely Mysti Berry on a few occasions (in fact she was one of the first people I spoke to at the masterclass). She came all the way from San Francisco … buy her book, it’s for a great cause.
I also met Fiona Sussman up at the Church of the Holy Rude, just before the gin and Liam McIlvanney won the McIlvanney prize. She’s lovely and came all the way from New Zealand for the festival. She’s also the 2017 winner of New Zealand’s highest crime honour, the Ngaio Marsh Award. I’ll be buying her books too!
Best of all, I managed to spend a day and a half with my editor buddy Eleanor Abraham. It was brilliant to see her again and catch up. She’s my kind of human and she put up with all my inane rambling along the way. Eleanor, next time there will be more gin drunk!
So, despite a few weeks lately of ‘urgh’ stuff, there has been some brilliant stuff. I’m glad I took time off for Bloody Scotland. I hope it never again clashes with the SfEP conference, or I may have to alternate between the two – this cannot be the last Stirling weekend I go to. I have found my writing tribe.
I’ve found that crime writers are one huge family. They are friendly, supportive and love to laugh.
It was excellent to be among folks who didn’t bat an eyelid when talking about things polite society thinks odd.
What did I get from Bloody Scotland?
Friendship, great memories, new writing knowledge, a deep wish that I could clone myself and attend all the talks … and a bloody huge pile of books added to my teetering to-be-read pile.
If you need a copyeditor or copywriter contact me. You know you want to.
I’ll let you into a secret.
I’ve been away.
A glorious week at Disneyland Paris, at a fabulous hotel, eating wonderful food and walking eight miles a day.
And spending hours at a time standing in line to go on a ride that took no time at all.
I loved every minute of it. It was like being enveloped in a big, pink, commercial fantasyland where little children were allowed to be princesses and grown-ass humans could wander around wearing Mickey ears without being judged.
I would go back in a heartbeat if I could.
But I can’t, so until next time I’ll just have to knuckle down to real life.
It wasn’t all play though. I never manage to switch off for long, and I came away with some business-type thoughts. I even had an epiphany at 37,000 feet (as well as the whole plane hearing police sirens from below as we entered French airspace … that was weird).
Now we all love a fairytale (you do, don’t you?), but my trip away left me with questions:
There’s just one answer, people.
It’s the story.
And the feeling of inclusivity (ok that’s two answers).
The reason that Disney is such a huge success is that people love a story, and they love to feel part of something. We’re hard-wired to love a story. It’s one of the most powerful forms of communication, can break down barriers and makes people feel included. Stories encourage empathy, can help people feel less alone and can move people in ways other forms of communication can’t.
We love places like Disneyland because we become immersed in the fantasy, and it allows us to revert to childhood for a little while. We step inside the story and leave our troubles at the entrance gates. We know it’s totally fake, but that’s ok. We’re living in a fairytale while we’re there and it helps us cope with the adulting once we leave.
We stand in line for an hour to go on that ride because while we stand we’re surrounded by the story of the ride. We stand with other people, make contact and occasionally make friends for a little while. We expand our community for that hour.
We spend all our money in the brightly coloured shops, full of brightly coloured toys, clothes and homeware because we’re buying into the dream. We’re a knowingly captive audience who want to extend our experience through into our real lives when we go home.
We suspend disbelief and wear the merchandise because we want to, and the herd mentality wants us all to follow the crowd. Of course there’s also the fact that we want the children around us to believe in the magic for as long as possible … any adult who doesn’t play along is in danger of ruining the dream for everyone else.
So what has this got to do with my business and your business?
Well, it shows that storytellers can help create engagement (yes, storytellers like me!).
By including narrative in your business website and material you can engage your customers more. Let people in, let them know about you and your business. Everyone loves a story and stories can make you more real. Help people see the real you.
If you don’t believe me check out this article from the Harvard Business Review.
We don’t all need to go full Disney, but the Disneyland parks are a fabulous example of how storytelling can create an environment that engages customers.
And stories sell.
If you need help creating your story contact me and we can create a narrative that’ll help engage your clients.
Now I’m home I’m missing my life beneath that pink fairytale castle. It was a warm, happy, inclusive place where pirates mingled with princesses and fluffy seven-foot-tall teddy bears. And where we rode rollercoasters before an omelette burger breakfast and took a trip with StarTours every day.
But it’s time to get back to reality. And when I’m not helping my clients create their own stories I’ll be helping to create a fairytale pantomime at our local theatre for the next three months. I suppose stories are in my blood.
What’s your story?
I’ve two apple trees in my garden.
I’m crap at gardening.
But finally after years of perseverance and patience, this year I have one tree laden with fruit.
Some businesses are like my apple trees.
They start small.
They fail to deliver and you wonder if they’re worth sticking with.
Then after a bit of nurturing, the right climate, some expert advice and a bit of optimism they start to blossom.
You’re soon reaping the rewards and glad you didn’t give up.
I can’t guarantee you sunshine (come on, I live in the north of Scotland!), but I can help you with your writing.
If you need help with your website copy, your training manuals, advertising or any other written material just drop me a line.
I can edit it, write it for you, or just give it a general health check.
Let’s do this!
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