Online Launch of Dear Tosh…

Just a quick post to let you all know about the online launch of Dear Tosh which is planned for 20th May 2021 at 19.30. It’s free to register on the link here:

DEAR TOSH ONLINE LAUNCH 

Hope to see you all there.

Launch Picture

I wish I could offer you sparkling wine and canapés and book signing but that will have to wait until the autumn I think. No reason why I can’t launch again – in the flesh  so to speak!

 

Cover Reveal…Here it is….

You have no idea how long I have waited to write and say those words. Today is the day.

I hope you all love this cover as much as I do. This photograph of Tosh was taken by his brother Will Hartley, in December 2010. You can see more of Will’s photography here

I think the photograph makes a wonderful cover. Simple, understated, and I love the way Tosh is running towards the viewer. I’m not going to say anymore just yet. I want to give everyone time to absorb the image. More information on publication date etc., to follow.

9781838421007

The Waiting Game…

The final stages leading up to the printing and publication of my book Dear Tosh seem to be taking forever.

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My little mock-up of the book cover. I like to place myself in good company! 

We went to France in October before lockdown and returned in the middle of March, before France locked down again. I don’t regret spending those five months in the Languedoc, we had warmish weather and not a lot of rain, although it was a tad windy for a great deal of the time. The Tramontane wind gusts through the region bringing with it a chill to the air.

 

le shuttle

Le Shuttle

Returning to England was a bit of a pain with all the documents, Covid tests, etc., that had to be completed, but it was worth it all in the end. 

 

Back in our cottage in Dorset. Jpeg was exhausted after her long journey from France — as were we. 

Although our time in France was spent mostly in confinement (lockdown) I am pleased that we went. I would not have been able to finish the book had we not gone. Dear Tosh is written as twenty-seven letters to him; one for each year that he lived. Being in France enabled me to write in the moment but remembering his life and looking back from the point of view of the tenth anniversary of his death, using the dates of 2020 and 2021 as starting points for each letter. I think it works really well.

I sent the word document through to the typesetters and they have now returned it twice with amendments. I didn’t realise that I would have to watch out for errors that occured when transferring my written word through their typesetting software programme. Apparently, it sometimes picks up underlying formatting from word that is not visible when you just look at the document. There were only a couple of errors, but I’m trying hard not to let anything slip by. I’m hopeful that by the end of next week I will have given it the thumbs up and it will be sitting on the desk of the printers by the middle of April. At which point I’ll be able to do a ‘cover reveal’ and begin to put the wheels in motion for everyone to buy it through local bookshops, online or directly from me.

book printing

Printing My Book

I’m trying hard to record an audio version of the book, and have set myself up at home with all the equipment I need. It’s not as easy as I thought. Getting my head around how to save each chapter as a file,  making sure my voice is the same for each recording session, recording volume, editing, mastering… and so it goes on. I think I’m getting there now — although I have started over about three times. I once got as far as chapter 15 but then realised it just wasn’t quite right. It’s a massive learning curve!

Me in my ‘home studio’ what you can’t see is the window is covered with a bedspread and a duvet and behind me there is usually a clothes airer with a double duvet hung over it. Anything to get some kind of soundproofing…not easy when a tractor thunders by or The Man decides to have a loud telephone conversation with someone downstairs! Check out the slippers…they say you should be comfortable…download

Self Publishing. . . a steep learning curve…

self-publishing

 

I’ve finished the book and now begins the road to publication. I have purposely not chosen to pitch to an agent and go down the traditional route. I realise this will upset a lot of people, but I simply don’t have the time. My book Dear Tosh is a memoir that I have been writing on and off over the last ten years. Last year for one of my MA modules I wrote 5,000 words about losing my son and they were well received by my tutor and by my colleagues. It focused my mind, and with the tenth anniversary of his death coming up in 2021, I pulled everything together and the result was a memoir of twenty-seven letters written to Tosh over the period from November 2020 to February 1st 2021; covering the anniversary, being in France with The Man, living with the lockdown, all these factors contributed to the making of the book. I feel it needs to be published and available before the moment is gone.

It’s a big responsibility, publishing your own book. I do not want to send something out that can be criticised for its lack of professional appearance in any way whatsoever. I was told that one mistake people make is to try and design the cover themselves, so I’ve handed that over to a specialist company. I’ve worked with a mentor to get the structure of the book right and I’ve made sure the text has been proofread by a professional three times. Rather than exporting from my computer onto a PDF to send to the printer, I’m using the typesetters. All this is costing, and I am fully aware of the privileged position I am in to be able to do this but…I am seventy years old now, and I’ve waited a long time for this. I hope the book circulates to thousands of people — but I’ll settle for a few hundred — actually, I suppose I’ll settle for a few friends buying a copy 😂. So far, those who have read the manuscript, have given glowing reviews and endorsements. Fingers crossed for a minor success. 🤞

This is just the beginning. If it’s meant to be, I might be picked up by an agent for future books that I write, and I won’t have to be waking up at 5.30 in the morning, worrying about the next step of the process, but I’m sure there will still be plenty of panicking to do.

I’ll keep you up to date with the progress but at the moment I’m aiming for a publication date in April. That’s if I can stop fiddling with the text, worrying about photographs for the cover and put the thing to bed. This week HAS to be the final week of editing and tweaking. By Wednesday, I want it off my desktop and in the hands of those who know what they’re doing at this stage of the game.

Note Number 90…Should It End Here?

90 copy

I opened up the programme to write this latest blog post, and I realised that it would be post number 90. As the whole point of this site was to have 90 posts, it appears I may have just come to the end. But, who cares? I think I’ll carry on for now.

The news is that I am forging ahead on the self-publishing route for my memoir with great gusto! It’s a learning curve that’s for sure. Proofreader, ISBNs, typesetters, printers, distribution  — it’s all go. Writing the book was nothing compared to the work I’m having to put in now. I’m sure it will be worth it though.

I’m also setting up a new website where there will be a link  to order the book. You will be able to read reviews — or send them in when you’ve read it! This blog will be published on that website too. There’ll be a cover reveal at the beginning of March and hopefully the book will be available in print and as an ebook from the middle to end of April. As soon as I have an actual date I’ll let you know.

Yes! There will be a launch, online or face to face, depending on the restrictions. I’ll be drinking the fizz either way. I’ll read a few excepts from Dear Tosh (I have settled on that title) and maybe do a Q&A session.

It’s all very exciting. No time to stop now. Better dash…need to just do the millionth read through of the manuscript. Feels like being back at school…

tenor

Note Number 89…It’s all about the writing…

I cannot believe it’s nearly the end of January. I know many people are saying that it’s been a long one, but for me it has flown. Those who know me will understand that January is not a good month for me and this year has been a little more difficult because it’s the 10th anniversary of the loss of my lovely son, Tosh. I have TToshweeted and Instagrammed and Facebooked photos etc., I’m just going to post one photo here, to remind you all what a handsome bloke he was. 

This blog is all about the writing. I have been handwriting and typing my little fingers off all month — well for a couple of years actually — there have been Zoom workshops about memoir writing, poetry writing, how to pitch your book to an agent and how to write a proposal.

I’ve been concentrating on memoir because that is what I’m writing. For the tenth anniversary, I’m completing a memoir about losing Tosh. the book’s working title, (which I think I’ll keep) is Dear Tosh. I’ve written a series of letters to him, telling him how things were from my side, when he had that fatal accident in Portugal. I’ve also brought him up to date with family events, and a few world events, over the last ten years. Obviously a lot has happened: births, deaths, marriages, the usual stuff.

It’s been quite a learning curve when it comes to editing, with so many chapter re-writes and redrafting,  but I think I’m nearly there. It’s been an interesting journey and even though an emotional ride I have to admit that I am also enjoying it. It is like spending time with him for part of each day. I don’t know what I’ll do when it’s finished…perhaps I’ll just carry on.

Writing has become a habit. A good habit. Which is exactly what you have to get into if you want to complete a book of any kind. I now write morning pages each day and a journal in the evening, when I remember. During the day I scribble away creating poetry or editing and redrafting the work in progress. I used to hate the editing side of writing, preferring to just create, but for the memoir, I’m loving the process of reading, checking, changing, cutting, adding, moving sections around, and generally tidying it all up. 

I’ll update you with the progress of the memoir and if I get any publishing deals that I can’t refuse, you will all be the first to know. I hope Tosh would approve of the book.

Stay safe everyone.

 

Note Number 85… MA…”Confinement” Lockdown…Zooming (again)…

poppies

Sunday, 8th November 2020. It’s remembrance Sunday in the UK but not in France. Here, they remember on the 11th November each year, which is, of course, the correct date to be remembering. I took a moment or two just now to think about those lost in the two world wars and those who die everyday in some distant war and will pause again next Wednesday.

What a week it’s been! I now have my MA in Creative Writing…pat on the back for me. Ninette Hartley BA (Hons) MA. Sounds and looks good. My mum and dad would be really proud, and I know Geoff, and the rest of our family are delighted. Just wondering if I might be able to add any more letters after my name. . . hmm . . . perhaps not.

Celebrating my MA with a glass of Crémant and my Portfolio of Poems — of which I am very proud. 

COLLABORATION

Dance and Poetry

I learnt so much during the year, but the most impressive thing was the number of books I read, many of them I would not have chosen for myself from a bookshop. I have broadened my reading.  There was a lot to cover in just one year, and part of me wishes I had taken two years and given myself more time for each module. However, as it has turned out with the Coronavirus, after Easter it was taught mostly online anyway. I feel so sorry for my friends and colleagues who are missing out on the face to face teaching and mixing with others to discuss/argue various points brought up during the term. Coffee and lunch breaks in the Post Graduate Common Room were always the highlight of the week.

Last week I took part in an intense memoir writing course organised by Hamish and Rebecca from The Garsdale Retreat . They made sure our timetable was full, with workshops in the mornings, a chat room open in the afternoons and evening entertainment including readings and music recitals. At the end of the week the course participants read from their own work. Cathy Rentzenbrink was the tutor. A famous memoirist herself, with three books already published (which I can highly recommend) and a novel due out in 2021. You can read all about her here . Cathy gave us many useful prompts to help dig deep inside ourselves and to bring all those memories to life on the page, in a structured, interesting and engaging way. I have the tools now, but can I do it? We shall see.

my study

My writing room here in France. Jpeg loves to sit with me in here. Back in Dorset my writing area is on the landing, and she’s never allowed up the stairs. I might have to change that when we get back. Only while I’m writing though. Otherwise she can stay downstairs.

zoom meeting

Happy Zooming Faces

This week was also the second session leading my own Creative Writing Workshop for a cancer support group back in Dorset. They are a great bunch of people, and as we get to know each other, the creative writing juices are flowing (nice cliche for you!). I was nervous the first week, but now I can’t wait for the next session. I consider myself a facilitator rather than a teacher.

view today

View of the valley during our 1hour walk with the dog today (Sun 8th Nov)

The weather has held up this week and we’ve been on some wonderful walks with the dog. She loves it here and we are settling in well for the winter despite the Confinement France’s lockdown, which is pretty tough. We can only go out for one hour a day for exercise and for essential shopping and we must complete an Attestation de Déplacement Dérogatoire a certificate of travel. You must write down the time you leave your home, sign it and carry it with you. We also have to carry our passports with us to prove who we are. Today is the tenth day of lockdown and we have been careful to obey the rules, so far we have not been stopped – but then again we are on the edge of a small town and mostly walk in the seclusion of the vineyards.

Certificate

Attestation de Déplacement Dérogatoire,

Has anything else significant happened this week? I can’t remember. . .

american election

Note Number 83…And It’s All Over Now…

Station Kitchen

Celebrating at The Station Kitchen in West Bay

Well I submitted. Twenty-seven  poems in a portfolio with the title, “Collaboration – Dance & Poetry. Only The Man has read the final collection before submission.  It was hard work for four months, but I very much enjoyed it, and I learnt so much on the journey. I had to read and study many different styles of poetry and I think I have finally ended up with a “voice” of my own. I hope so, because finding your own voice, I have discovered, is an important part of writing poetry.

Firebird Kisses Final© Ninette Hartley Aug 2020

The poem above is from “the collection”. I gave it a last edit just before the final submission. I’ve included it here because a few people have “liked” it — I thought it would be a good one to share. It was inspired by the ballet The Firebird first performed in 1910 with The Ballet Russses.

I now want to finish my memoir about the loss of my son Tosh, and of course I want to write a lot more poetry. I’ve already entered a couple of competitions and looking around for more. I’m one of those people who needs a deadline! In the middle of September I’m going to do a Wild Writing weekend in Yorkshire. Watch this space….

I am now in Bristol to collect my two lovely granddaughters to take home with me to Dorset. It will be a break for their mum (my daugther) but now the pressure is off me, I can enjoy playing with them and spoiling them for a few days.

Girls on the Beach

The last time they visited we went the the beach at Charmouth — I don’t think the weather will be good enough this time.

 

 

Note Number 82…Zoom, just one look…

. . . and then my heart went boom (Remember the song?)  Well, I’ve been ZOOMING now for a few weeks, and so far the closest I got to a heart booming was for my children and grandchildren. Although, I have to confess I felt a twang when I attended a masterclass with Sebastian Faulkes Then, on the 5th August, I watched Simon Armitage on an Arvon Zoom at Home and there was a flutter in my chest when his face came onto the screen. I have seen Simon live onstage in Bridport. Hearing him read his poetry and speak about it was great entertainment, but “meeting” him on Zoom felt special. I reckon I know him personally now — but If I see him in the street and rush up to greet him, he won’t know me at all — I’m suffering from Zoom illusions.

Simon Armitage

Simon Armitage 

Last week I attended a Forward Meet the Poet session with Vicki Feaver (if you click on the link you can hear some of her poetry). What an inspiration she was! A wonderfully ‘laid back’ lady with so much poetry knowledge which she willingly shared. Forty-five minutes wasn’t enough time. I don’t know about others, but I could have watched and listened to her reading her poetry all evening. She was speaking about her book I Want I Want I Want which has been shortlisted in the Forward Arts Prize. I can recommend the book. Her poems are full of imagery and after reading them, they stay with me for a long time. I think this what makes a good poem: good imagery and desire to read them over and over again, each reading bringing you closer to the heart of the poem. I aspire to write like this. At the moment I think I’m a bit hit and miss and not very consistent in my work. But, for me, it’s still early days. It takes a long time to learn poetic skills.

Vicki Feaver

Vicki Feaver

On Saturday 15th August, I was “interviewed” by my son Matthew Rickard. He’s started a new series of podcasts that you can watch on the 1095 Pod on YouTube. I enjoyed the experience and hope if you have the time to visit that you enjoy watching.  Of course, afterwards, I thought of many different answers to some of his questions. Isn’t that always the way? I never mentioned “imagery” when speaking about poetry and for “memorable life events” I never thought about “giving birth to twins” which has to go down as unforgettable. Also, being present at the birth of my first granddaughter — how did I not think of these things at the time?

Me

ME!
Well gotta think big — I’m now on the same page as Simon Armitage and Vicki Feaver !

Only twelve days left before MA Dissertation submission — Better stop having delusions of grandeur and get on with it!

Note Number 81. . .

poetry

Image Clip Art Barn

Today is the 30th July. I have to submit my dissertation and essay for my MA by the 28th August. I should have been going away on the 14th August and had originally planned to have it all done and dusted by then. Am I glad I’ve got an extra two weeks? I’m not sure — The more time you have the more time you take — is what I think.

The odd thing is, I reached my required line limit of 600 for my poetry portfolio a week or so ago, and as soon as I arrived there, I found I could write more and with greater ease, and some quite good (well I thought so). Hence poems are still popping out at the rate of one or two a day. All through working for the portfolio, I was counting lines. . . 300, not enough, only 450. . . how can that be? But, once I hit 600 and the pressure was off the writing became so much easier. I wish now that I had never counted a single line but just written.

Last weekend I attended a workshop organised by the Dorset Writers Networkand run by the lovely Sarah Acton from Black Ven Poetry   We met at the Dorset NectarApple Orchard. Unfortunately it rained but we were able to sit in the big barn and absorb the sound of the rain, breathe the air and when there was a break in the showers we walked outside to get close up and friendly with the apple trees. It was, by coincidenc, St James’s Day the day on which apple trees are traditionally blessed. We did our best with our creative ideas and thoughts. It was an uplifting experience and so good to socialise albeit at a distance, but just to have distanced physical contact and talk writing and poetry again with like-minded people felt so good.

Me and Orchard

Me with the Orchard in the Background

If you haven’t watched them yet there are several Imagine programmes with Alan Yentob, to catch up on on Iplayer, but my favourites were, Lemn Sissay The Memory of Me and Andrea Levy Her Island Story. Both wonderful, inpiring writers with such interesting life stories to tell. Sadly Andrea died at the beginning of 2019…too soon.

I have bought the Lemn Sissay book My Name Is Why and am immediately hooked. What wonderful poetry this man writes.

Lemn-Sissay-Event

Going to reread Small Island now and also her book Fruit of The Lemon which is sitting on my bookshelf waiting. Andrea Levy

Too much to read. . .need more time. Too many wonderful podcasts to listen to. . .