17 March 2014

On the Road with “The Writing Process Blog Tour”


Apologies for the extended absence - and a huge, huge, huge THANK YOU to Jenefer Heap for nudging me back into the Blogsphere.

My life has been a whirlwind recently, and blogging, although firmly ensconced on the “To Do” list, never quite made it to the top of the page. Taking part in the “Blogging Tour” has however re-ignited the flame!

Each writer in the Blogging Tour is invited to answer the same four questions about their writing, thus forming a new link in a long and winding virtual chain. I’m one of three writers taking the baton from Jenny (she writes a great blog, check it out: Jenefer Heap ). 
The three witty and engaging writers I’ve chosen to follow me next week are: Caroline BarrHarriet Hamilton and The Girl Behind The Wall. I love their work, and I’m sure you will, too! Read more about them at the end of the blog.
 And, so. Placing myself into the ‘hot seat’…

Question 1: What am I working on?

1.) At the moment, I am focused on two main projects (well, three, if I can count our 2 month old baby as a project!):

a.)           I’ve blissfully landed a commission for a book to commemorate the major Shakespeare anniversary in 2016. (He died in 1616.) For this, I shall be collaborating with a major UK arts organisation, and we are currently pursuing funding and support. (Would be benefactors welcome!) 
            I’m utterly delighted to have the opportunity and hope that the book will bridge both scholarly and popular interest in Shakespeare and his legacy. I’m loathed to provide more specific details about it here for fear of jinxing things (!), as we are still hashing through details, contracts, etc. Suffice to say, the project is very “me”, i.e.,  embracing a range topics under one big, glorious Shakespeare umbrella! I’m still in the honeymoon phase, but the panic of actually having to produce something quite substantial by January 2015 is looming large on the horizon…

b.)           For the past 4 years, I have had a regular, featured column in a glossy, monthly magazine. Sadly, the magazine folded (not due to my column, I hasten to add!) and now, after several weary months of crying into my beer, and feeling sorry for myself, I’m in the process of trying to re-establish myself as a columnist-in-print. (Short of standing on the side of the road with a sign that reads: “Will Write for Food.”)

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I think what makes me different both as a scholarly writer and a popular writer is the quirky way in which I don’t divide the two. For better or for worse, I approach all of my work in the same way. I try to write with heart, tenacity, verve, humour, and knowledge.

In terms of my scholarly work – I’m the author of three works of scholarly non-fiction: 


With each of these works my goal was to tell a complex story simply. To be accessible and entertaining, whilst also being true to the subject. The same is true of my work as a columnist and op-ed writer.

Undoubtedly, the most unique feature of my writing is the way in which Shakespeare quite honestly informs everything I do. I see the world through a Shakespearean lens. That, I suppose, is my “twist”.

Recently, I collaborated with Chef and culinary historian, Alan Deegan on a Shakespeare cookbook!

Question 3: Why do I write what I do?

“Words, words, words.” - Hamlet

When Shakespeare isn’t looking, I allow myself to canoodle with a few other authors, notably Chekhov. In his play, The Seagull, in which he is channeling Shakespeare (!), Chekhov depicts one of the most beautiful and infuriating representations of a writer in the character, Trigorin.

Trigorin is passionate, flawed, wounding, and vulnerable.  When asked why he pursues his craft, he states quite simply, and with a slight air of defeated resolve: “I have to write. I have to write. I have to write.”

Writing in this instance is an undeniable need. This is a need I understand.  For me, writing is a way of being in the world, of living, seeing, and making sense of it all.

I was once warned of the potential hazards of becoming an “academic gadabout”. Ironically, at the time this warning was issued, the speaker in question – a rather somber, but well-meaning academic Dean – actually used the wrong word. She advised me against becoming a “Gadfly”, though I’m in no doubt she meant “Gadabout”, as it became very clear that from her perspective, being a “Gadfly” (a person who annoys or criticises others) is preferable to being a “Gadabout” (a person who flits from place to place, thing to thing). The notion, it seems, is that it’s okay to ruffle feathers, as long as you only ruffle the very same set of feathers relentlessly, and without deviation.

Well, where’s the fun in that?

Not one for warnings or omens, I have happily embraced my “Gadaboutness” and it has brought me much joy, and is in fact a key feature of my preferred genre as a columnist. Far from the confines of academe, I write about any and everything I will! From sausages and oysters, to probate and wills, to Shakespeare and stage history.

Question 4: How does my writing process work? 

“If it be madness, yet there is method in it.” - Hamlet

Process? What process?

This is the greatest thing about being a columnist. To quote Shakespeare (yet again!): “The world is mine oyster.” Everything is source material - ‘the story’ is everywhere. So really the process begins with observation. Seeing, but seeing in a different way. Not actively “looking for the story”, but always, always being open to the story.  Being a sponge is also important, and goes without saying. Being brave, fearless, and a bit mad. Not being afraid to put your heart and soul on the page.

In terms of practical mechanics, when I was actively working on my monthly column (sniff, sniff!) the deadlines were precise and tight. I work well under pressure, so it helped to have that relentless drive of “It’s due, it’s due!!” The perfect day would be sitting out on the deck, basking in the sunshine, with a huge mug of Assam tea, thinking – “What shall I write about this month…?” 
(Those were the days. *SIGH*)

I am/was constantly making notes, scribbling and blogging is indispensible. (Though I’ve been very very remiss in that area of late.)

But thank you, again and again, to Jenefer Heap for nudging me back onto the screen!

Now, without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to three of my writer friends who I've selected to carry the baton for next week’s Blogging Tour...
Caroline Barr

Blog: "Ask A Busy Woman"

Caroline Barr has spent a lifetime in marketing and public relations, plus 4 children, husband, dogs, tennis playing, rugby watching, and golf learning. She has just completed her first novel. Her superbly titled blog, "Ask a Busy Woman" is centred on her life in Yorkshire. 


Lady Harriet Hamilton

Blog: Lady Harriet Hamilton
We own and run the apley estate in Shropshire,  a 8500 acre working country estate where we opened apley farm shop in 2011, Apley walled garden in 2013 and 3 apley holiday cottages between 2007-2012. I do the marketing, pr and advertising for those businesses,  as well as focussing this year on the Apley archives. 

My blog is principally to write about anything going on at Apley as well as some personal blogs too, as it's very much a family business. The farm shop site has 9 businesses and the estate itself is also very Multi facetted, incorporating rented properties, shoots and farming. 


The Girl Behind the Wall

The Girl Behind The Wall

Blog: My Mending Wall

As a survivor of abuse and neglect, I am on a journey of sorting out the whys and hows. My life began in the midst of turmoil, but will end in peace and serenity because I choose not to be a victim, but rather I choose a journey of healing the unseen scars of my childhood.


Jenefer Heap said...

Well done, Alycia - I will ever more think of you as a Gadfly!
Your new project sounds very exciting and I look forward to hearing more of it, perhaps you could blog on how it progresses.
In the meantime, thank you for an excellent read.

the girl behind the wall said...

Thank you for including me in your top 3 blogs! I am very honored to be among such prestigious bloggers! I am excited for you as you delve in to your new project, and at the same time, and frantically trying to get a plan together for coming across the big pond to see that adorable baby boy! Hugs and kisses!