Much of the beginning of lockdown in March and April was about preparing for staying at home and mentally adjusting to life at home with my family. I had no desire to write and even found reading more difficult than normal.
However, this month has been fantastic for writing, editing and coming up with new ideas. Being the fellow at Moat Brae has helped get my creative juices flowing again. I've been fascinated by reading all about J.M. Barrie and how his childhood influenced his writing. I had assumed he had a fantastical imagination, but discovered that he actually based much of his work on himself, or the people that were in his life at the time. Stories were a way for him to escape and make sense of his emotional life. I think that is true for many writers today and it is a reason why stories are so important.
I signed up for #WriteMentor's writing picture book weekend with Claire Helen Walsh. We learnt about creating fun and relatable characters who have emotional and physical journeys/needs. And we looked at ways to keep the plot moving with sparkle. And more recently another workshop with picture book writer Chitra Soundar who shared her in-depth knowledge of what makes a picture book work. I find picture books much harder to write than other types of books for children as you have to be very precise. Every word counts in a picture book and you have to think about aspects that could be illustrated as you may not have to write those down. I hope to do more picture book courses soon and later in the year I want to find a picture book mentor but I need to have more material created so they can comment on it.
One of the great things about lockdown is that I have been attending a lot of online talks. Often for those writers with caring needs or jobs that keep them bound to one place, they cannot attend. I attended some talks at the Big Book Weekend in early May organised by Kit de Waal and Molly Flatt (supported by the BBC and Arts Council). I've also been to some Society of Author (SoA @ Home) events online - Afternoon Tea with Phillip Pullman (who has a wonderful messy desk just like mine!), I saw some of the Tracy Chevalier talk, and again, it was very inspiring to hear about her process and see her writing space.
I also wrote the first draft of a new book I'm working on (around 11,000 words for a commission) and a story for the Stay At Home! Poetry and Prose for Children in Lockdown which was published online by Cranachan Publishing. Forty writers from or based in Scotland were contacted and asked to write a story or poem about being in lockdown. My story is called The Worst Birthday Ever and is inspired by my own children who had to have their parties cancelled and how families and friends find new ways to celebrate despite not being able to physically get together.
So May has definitely been creative and inspiring. The sun has been shining and we have been exploring our local area. We walked around a pond that is about twenty minutes away and found a secret walled garden that we had never been to. We saw cygnets and beautiful flowers.