This week's story comes from Bec Davidson who joined us this month to writer her novel at last.
A decade ago, a dark cloak of loneliness settled over me with an effortless familiarity. I was adjusting to a new life living as an expatriate in Hong Kong. My unwanted solitude became an ‘enabler’ to my long-standing reading addiction. Closeness to the equator meant short days and long nights. My darkened hours became punctuated with Austen, McGregor, Fitzgerald, Ballard, Orwell, Huxley, Greene and many more of the literary greats. The characters became my friends and I became immersed in my new companions’ lives.
I read until the starlight faded, and the first smudges of light darted through my bedroom window. Only in the singular beat, before the milky dawn eclipsed the neon-lighted sky, would sleep pull me away.
Gruelling rounds of infertility treatment led me down a depressive pathway. A sadness quickly planted itself stubbornly down within me. The fertility drugs I injected made me sleepy and my dreams adopted a lucid like quality; what if there was another ‘me’, in another place, holding a baby in my arms? What would I be singing to my baby in this ‘other earth’? These ‘what ifs’ haunted my reality.
Fate was on my side, and in 2011 the universe gracefully handed me my perfect son. A complicated pregnancy dictated bed rest, and there I gorged myself on dim sum and dumplings. During the time of the ‘great gorge', I vowed to write a book. I would, of course, do this when my angel baby slept, ha! How utterly naive I was, babies don’t sleep long enough to write a comma, never mind a novel!
My reading took a different direction after the birth of my son. I became an excellent narrator when reading, “that’s not my puppy its nose is too fluffy!” And the closest I came to writing a book of my own, came in the prose of, “that's not my mummy her eyes are too wide awake”! As you can see fellow writers, I was creatively ON FIRE!
The hazy sleep-deprived years passed, and I adored the exquisite early years with my gorgeous little boy. However, I had unconsciously adopted the role of a ‘stay at home wife’. With filtered photos and lies I curated my #perfectlife on social media. I sculpted, carved and starved myself into the wife and mother Hong Kong expatriate society expected me to be.
I had a sense of invisibleness and nothingness in certain social and intellectual circles. Over the course of five years, I’d allowed my sense of personal identity to burn away like the fiery paper lanterns that lit up the inky China sea during the lunar festivals. To borrow a concept from Miss Louise Dean, I’d become a ‘stranger to myself’, and felt a crucial element was missing from ‘me’.
We returned to the UK after I endured several failed rounds of IVF. I was done with Hong Kong. My empty womb became a dangerous obsession, and for my own sanity, I stopped pursuing my dream of another child. But, in my grief, I found my old familiar intimacy with my literary friends. With my little boy at school, I had more time to become reacquainted with my love of reading.
This Christmas, I received both books by the author Sally Rooney. Connell says in ‘Normal People’ that ‘literature moves him’ and his Professor calls it ‘the pleasure of being touched by art’. Every single artful word Rooney writes touches my soul. Her prose with its elegance and aching beauty inspires me to write my first novel.
My interest was piqued when Louise’ Dean's online novel course spoke to me as I scrolled through Instagram. ‘THIS IS THE ONE’, I shouted to my husband with a mouthful of boxing day heroes & prosecco simultaneously wedged in my mouth. The structure, timing and cadence of the course suited my lifestyle perfectly. I signed up immediately after the trial. The Novelry's visual images, music and prose move me every day, inspiring me to crack on and write.
I am so excited to be part of this creative adventure! My novel’s title is perhaps, ‘The Childless Mother’ and the beating heart of the book will be a ‘love story’ (thank you, Plato & Aristophanes.) The idea of ‘yearning for a child’ will drive the plot of my novel, together with the main character. The themes will include, domestic abuse within marriage, feminism, infertility, obsession, hidden miscarriage, social media and capitalism; all set against the backdrop of the 2014 Hong Kong ‘umbrella revolution’.
There will potentially be a dash of (digestible) science fiction in the form of an alternative reality where the characters have taken different paths. My inspiration comes from my own musings of the ‘what ifs’ when I lived in Hong Kong, and Laura Barnett’s novel, ‘The Versions of Us’, helped me conceptualise the idea of an alternate reality, wrapped within a love story genre.
On a final note, I am curious as to where the next decade will take me! I now have my new cloak of creativity and camaraderie courtesy of The Novelry around my shoulders, so perhaps, anything is possible!
This week ten of our writers have been on our Full English Retreat in Dorset for seven days of all-inclusive intensive writing. The atmosphere has been very jolly.
It's been a story-telling boot camp! The course kicked off with a lesson by me (Louise) on the importance of glamour - ie light and shade in your story from its theme to its prose. This was followed with morning sessions with author Tim Lott to check structure, character, plot and help our writers get to the heart of the matter.
Writers have been treading the path to my cottage for one to one sessions and we've been working side by side, line by line, to push, pull, tease and coax the prose. We've slaughtered any excess of finery, gone for the laughs, preferred story over digression and switched the writing up a few notches by working this way. The evening's drinks gatherings followed by dinner and writers' readings by the fire have been so restorative.
The readings are vital to the way the week works. The week is a complete crammer and a game changer for our stories. During those readings, we all get to see the difference a new round of work can make. We see how and when and where a manuscript moves up a level and the difference between a working document and a book worth reading. We know each other's stories. We've seen each other's writings in a few rounds at the Members Lodge and from The Firestarter competition (closing date for entries March 1st).
So we all know THE TRUTH ABOUT WRITING - it's work! Some stunning progress has taken place here and greeted with rounds of applause, laughter and tears of joy.
I love my role as your coach, but in a sense you all share the satisfaction. We all get to see writers become authors. It's a Cinderella moment. Wonderful!
The feeling here is that the standard of work at The Novelry is something to be proud of. We will always set the bar high and keep it there. You can come to us as scruffy as you like, nervous too. That's good. My favourite kind of writer turns up at The Novelry and says "I don't think I'm a good writer." Hey, neither do I. Neither does any half-decent writer. We have everything you need here to take your writing to a very high standard, just hold the handrail of the course with one hand and reach out to your writing comrades with the other. You'll love the view from the top!
This week I was able to give news to one of my beloved writers that I have a great agent for her work. To hear her happiness, knowing how hard she has worked was one of the most lovely experiences imaginable. This writer created her idea using the Classic course, then wrote it using the Ninety Day course, but all-importantly she went to her teammates at The Novelry many times at our Members Lodge to ask for feedback and she drove that novel hard all the way home, with her running mates thoroughly invested in her work.
When one of us scores a success, we all cheer. We are a team, and we know by experience that working together this way makes the work many, many times better. Which is why the logo is an octopus, folks. One big beautiful collective brain powered by many writing tentacles.
PS. Don't forget to enter your first chapter to our Firestarter Competition this month sooner rather than later as you'll get more feedback from other writers that way. The feedback is so constructive you'd be mad to move ahead without it! (The competition in which everyone's a winner!) All entries of merit will be shown to literary agents, with your permission, of course. To enter sign up for a course which includes membership or add membership to your course package. There's no better way to get developmental advice that turning to the octopus!
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