To Frame Or Not To Frame

Ahhh, framing devices. They are tricky things; done cynically, it is the worst kind of laziness.  You know the ones I mean.

Lucy was falling. The ground was rushing up to meet her. There was no way she was going to survive this fall. She closed her eyes and braced herself –

 And sat up in her bed, heart beating fast. It was all a dream… 

Bleurgh. Only Alice can get away with this, okay? Okay. (Oh, Gus. I wish that had all been a dream.) But done well, they perfect a story. Think Heart of DarknessWuthering HeightsDiscworldWinnie The Pooh and The Book Thief.




This week, I entered the perilous territory of the framing device myself. My WiP is still ticking along nicely, but it felt a little thin. The resolution wasn’t there to the level I would want. I toyed with the idea of a split narrative, and then with a sort of Five years later prologue. But it felt a bit gimmicky, stuck on the end of the narrative like that. So, framing device it is. It’s a bit scary to have to commit so fully. In order to avoid the cynicism, it needs to be woven in so tightly it means unpicking a lot of what I have already written. But I think it is for the best. I only hope I’m right!

And on that note, my RSW 2014 went somewhat astray this week. It was my 5th anniversary with T, and then my parents’ 30th wedding anniversary, so I have mostly been drinking and swimming in the sea off the Pembrokeshire coast. This week, I’ll be back on it in earnest.



I’m official!

My author page is up on Janklow and Nesbit’s website. May have had a little happy cry.

In other news, I have written exactly zero words of my WiP this week *sigh*. I got my comeuppance though, in the form of an oyster from a street vendor in Bangkok. Man oh man, that did not end well. Here’s photo of us in happier times:


photoDown the hatch goes the Oyster of Doom

I am all better now and back in the UK. Arrived to some lovely post in the form of a letter from my MA course-mate, friend, and brilliant writer, Rory. It is a thing of beauty: hilarious and courageously written on his orange typewriter Edie (after Edith Sitwell), that I bought for him from a charity shop as a farewell present/implement of torture. I also received a copy of Lighthouse magazine, in which my poem Dulcet appears (pg. 27).

RIGHT. I am going to go and write some WiP words now. Yes, yes I am.

The oyster is watching.

A beginning, a middle and an end

A longer post this week. Firstly I’m so glad I could tell you all my exciting news! It’s absolutely crazy to be working with Chicken House and Random House, and I still can’t believe my luck. Will fill you in as we go along.

In the meantime, let’s start at the ending. In an alternate version of The Sound of Music, it’s a very good place to start.

I finished my Creative Writing MA course on Tuesday. I don’t hand in my final thesis and poetry collection (a retelling of Orpheus and Eurydice from the latter’s perspective) until September, but this was the last time we were all going to be together as a group. It was a strange feeling. These people were the reason I wrote The Cartographer’s Daughter in the first place; I have made (I hope) lifelong friends; and learnt so much about my strengths and weaknesses as a writer.

My cohort taught me precision, humour and humility (plus whiskey) will get you through most writerly problems. I am sure I will keep in touch with many of them – and I am sure many more will go on to be incredibly important writers in their field(s). I don’t want to gush, but really, these guys are something special. It is daunting to realise how many talented people there are out there, but it is also invigorating to know that I have worked with some of them.

We had some brilliant speakers too. Author Alex Preston gave us some sage advice, and Neil Astley (a personal hero) made my day by knowing who I was. At the end of the residency, the course directors asked us to write down one of our strengths as a writer. I think mine is instinct – I don’t waste too much time on self doubt (though I have a lot), and I get my stuff out there. I see so many good writers second guessing themselves, and I just want to shake them and say ‘let someone else judge, you may be surprised what happens.’

I need to stop, because jet lag plus gin is making me weepy, but it really was an incredible experience, and I’m so glad I shared it with the people I did.

The middle: Ready. Set. Write! 2014 continues apace, and I am now well into the central section of my WiP. Here is the lowdown:

1. How I did on last week’s goal(s)

I crawled weakly over the finish line at 28,492 words. I didn’t get round to the editing.

2.  My goal(s) for this week.

Plough on! Another busy week coming up: Bangkok, anniversary and parents’ anniversary, so I’m going to set a gentle target of 32,000 words.

3.  A favourite line from my story OR one word/phrase that sums up what I wrote/revised.

Then we are laughing so hard my stomach hurts. I feel dizzy, almost sick with the strangeness of it all. The fire, the letter, Mari.

4.  The biggest challenge I faced this week (ex. finding time to write).

Discipline – knowing I had the time and space to write but doing something else instead (i.e. spending that extra hour at the Ampawa floating market and eating lots and lots of dumplings).

5.  Something I love about my WiP

I’m still coming back to it excited to carry on. It’s not remotely draining to write.

And finally, a beginning! Now the contracts are confirmed, TCD is on its way to becoming an actual, printed book. Maybe if I type that enough it will start to sink in.

What a very good place to end.


Drumroll please…

I can finally announce that The Cartographer’s Daughter will be published by Chicken House Books in the UK, and Knopf (Random House) in the US! These are two of my favourite publishers, and I am over-the-moon to be joining lists that include Philip Pullman, Christopher Paolini, Melvin Burgess and Cornelia Funke.

I’m so excited that it will soon have readers who don’t have an emotional obligation to like it! And I have to say a big thank you to my agents Hellie Ogden and Kirby Kim at Janklow and Nesbit, they are on a whole new level of amazing.

It really has been an incredible journey up to this point. It’s strange to think that  I sat down to write the first chapter only fifteen months ago (April 1st 2013 – my friends thought it was an April Fool). I can’t wait to start the next stage – working with legendary editors and really challenging myself to make it the best novel it can be. Here goes…

Ready. Set. WRITE! update

Nope, still can’t tell you my exciting news. I am about to pop with excitement – have never been good at waiting! But this is teaching me some patience I suppose.


So, here is my Ready. Set. Write! 2014 update instead:

1. How I did on last week’s goal(s)

I didn’t achieve my word goal but I did manage to get on with my poetry and the play – hooray! I got to 25,436 words.

2.  My goal(s) for this week.

Reach 28,000 words and edit what I have so far. (Have my MA residency and am going to Bangkok on Wednesday so won’t have much prose writing time.)

3.  A favourite line from my story OR one word/phrase that sums up what I wrote/revised.

I look back out into the darkening forest. I see something in the trees, something strange enough to catch my eye; a shape, a bit like clump of leaves but denser, too irregular to be fruit. It seems to be pulsing, like a dark heart.

Oooo what can it be?

4.  The biggest challenge I faced this week (ex. finding time to write).

Self doubt. Yep, that old chestnut.

5.  Something I love about my WiP

Its simplicity. It is unravelling neatly, like a spool of thread, and all I have to do is follow it.