Monday, 3 November 2014


Another busy couple of weeks, but probably a bit more writerly activity than I reported last time – including actual writing! Reading back over my writing journal. I see that I didn't touch the novel from 13th to the 25th of October. This is quite a long break when you're working on a first draft, because you lose momentum and it becomes increasingly difficult to re-enter the 'zone'. Fortunately, I'd booked a one day urban writing retreat for the 25th, so that forced me back into it. More of that in a moment. First, a quick roundup of my other writerly activities.

On Tuesday 21st  saw the launch of Watch & Wait, (Cybermouse multimedia). The proceeds from the sale of the book and from the launch are gifted to the Lymphoma Association - just over £1000 so far. My short story Day Tripper  appears in the anthology, which also contains stories from 19 other authors, including Marina Lewycka, Rony Robinson, Danuta Reah, Bryony Doran and Berlie Doherty to name but a few. The launch was a huge success. The room was packed, and it was such a pleasure to hear these wonderful authors reading from their work and talking about their writing lives. The evening continued with live music, drinking and chatting.

Saturday 25th started with the aforementioned retreat. I could only stay for the morning but just those three hours sitting in a room working quietly with other writers was enough to reacquaint me with my novel, so although I only wrote about 600 words, I felt so much better.

In the afternoon, I joined Danuta Reah for a book-signing at WH Smith in Fargate, Sheffield. This was mainly Danuta's signing – I was the 'support act'.  Danuta is a crime writer, and much of her work is set in Sheffield - I can highly recommend Bleak Water, which is set the around the canals. I'll definitely be reading more of her work. We'll be at WH Smith's again on 29th of November, and this time, I'll be the 'main attraction' with Danuta supporting me. So if you'd like a signed copy of one of my books, one of Danuta's, or the Watch & Wait anthology – all great Christmas presents – pop along for a chat on the 29th.

On Saturday evening, I met up with six writer friends for one of our regular 'writers dinners'. Writing is a solitary business, and you can feel very much alone when you're wrestling with problems in your work, so it's always great to reconnect with people who understand. My lovely friend Ruby, who I met 12 years ago on an Arvon course, stayed overnight and so we had lots of time on Sunday to chat talk about our novels (and to 'do lunch', of course.)

Some writers prefer not to discuss their work in progress, but I find it incredibly useful to talk about ideas and problems with other writers. This almost always helps to clarify things. After chatting with Ruby, I felt clearer about the problems, and I had a few ideas about how to move forward. On Monday, a phone chat with my lovely editor helped to complete the process and put me right back on track. Sometimes, the solution to a problem is staring you in the face, but you're just too close to the work to see it. Discussing it with someone who knows what they're talking about can really set you free!

This was all great timing, because on Tuesday, I headed off to the Forest of Dean for a few days' retreat with the wonderful and inspiring Annie McKie. I went on a retreat with Annie in July and had a terrific breakthrough in my work. I find that being away from the distractions of home and not having to think about shopping and cooking – Annie is a fabulous vegetarian cook –  means I can really focus on my work in a way that's impossible at other times.

I ate with Annie and her husband on my last evening, and these gorgeous roasted vegetables were part of the meal

'My' room - it has its own back door, an en-suite shower & loo and the most wonderful view
Annie is the perfect host - she leaves you to concentrate on  your work, bringing food when you need it, and she's on hand with helpful ideas for when you get stuck. The retreat room opens out onto a balcony overlooking the Forest of Dean.

I'm really pleased with what I achieved in those few days – I wrote three completely new scenes and rewrote two others. I came back on Saturday – did more writing on the train – and now, as if the loveliness will never end, I'm off to Lumb Bank near Hebden Bridge for an Arvon retreat. I'm really hoping to build on the good work I did at Annie's and come back next Saturday feeling significantly further forward with my novel.

In other news: Apple ibooks have picked up The Secrets We Left Behind For a special promotion, so for the next two weeks (from midnight 3rd Nov) the e-book will be £1.99 on iBooks.

A cheeky request
If you've enjoyed this post, I'd be so grateful if you'd Tweet the link. I never usually ask for RTs of my blog posts, but as I'm off to Arvon in a couple of hours, I won't have time to do much Tweeting myself, and my poor little blog that I've worked on the morning will lie unread. Thanks in advance!

New Amazon reviews:
The Secrets We Left Behind: Two 5-star, one 4-star and one 3-star.
The Things We Never Said: Three 5-star, two 4-star and two 3-star.

If you'd like to keep an eye on what I'm up to, follow me on Twitter @sewelliot or 'like' my Facebook page You can visit my website here


  1. I'm amazed you find any time to write coherently with all this going on!!

    1. So am I, Jo, so am I! But that's where the retreats come in - just got back from Arvon and got loads done!

  2. I'm determined to have enough money to go on one of those retreats next year! Life has got in the way of writing far too much for me this year. Well done on the hours put in on the new novel, Susan. Sounds like you're going great guns!

    1. It's really going well, thanks, Jo, especially with the help of the retreats. Annie's retreat very reasonable and well worth saving for. Arvon fairly pricey now, but you can apply for a grant. I'd recommend giving matter go – the money is there to help people who couldn't otherwise afford it to enjoy the 'Arvon experience'.