Entries in writing (74)



I’m juggling too many balls, and I’m not doing it well. From the Living Room has been seriously neglected recently, and I have a constant nagging in the back of my mind that I need to post. The nagging is uncomfortable and I don’t want blogging to be a stressful thing, so I’ve decided to close the living room door, at least for the time being.

My other blog, Four Wise Monkeys, has also been neglected recently, but it’s a much more manageable page and has a much clearer focus, so I’m hoping that concentrating on one blog for a while will help me to post more regularly.

From the Living Room will stay up but there won’t be any new posts for a while. If you’re a regular visitor to the living room, please come and visit me on Four Wise Monkeys instead. It’s a much more useful page to me at the moment but it’s rather short on readers.

I hope to wake the living room up again at some point in the future. Thanks for bearing with me.

Image by JamesAlan1986


The Retreat and Beyond

I’m someone who thrives on routine so long as I design it myself, and this I managed well during the week’s retreat with my writing group. I quickly fell into a habit of morning walks along the beach, stopping for some alfresco writing and editing along the way, followed by afternoons of computer-based work.

Our writing holiday provided me with the perfect combination of solitude and social time; of work and relaxation. Each day, I would set out on my own to walk by the sea, sometimes actively thinking about my novel, sometimes allowing my mind to wander – which is, I think, just as valuable. I’d stop somewhere to work for a couple of hours, and then I’d head back home to work some more.

At 6:30pm every day, we’d reconvene for dinner, each of us taking a day to shop and cook so that domestic necessity didn’t get in the way of any of us. Dinner would be sociable and fun, giving us the element of relaxation and holiday which was, I think, so useful to all of us productivity-wise. Then we’d settle in for a night of critiquing.

I’m someone who needs a lot of time to myself, and this arrangement suited me perfectly... because no matter how much I forget it, I also need conversation and outside input.

I’m ridiculously lucky to have found my writing group: serious and talented writers from very different walks of life, all tied together by a love of writing. Their feedback is immeasurably valuable to me and what I can get done during a week away with them is huge.

The trick now will be to transfer what I’ve learnt about myself and my work to my ordinary life. Around work, home and a social life, I need to remember what I can achieve when my head is in the right place, and do all that I can to make sure I’m in that state as much as possible.



I am away on retreat with my very wonderful writing group. This year we’re in Ramsgate, in a beautiful house two minutes away from the sea.

We arrived yesterday and spent the afternoon getting our bearings and settling in. Over dinner, we talked through our personal writing goals and sorted out the practical plans for meals and critiquing sessions, highlighting anything we might want to discuss with the group while we’re away. From the group point of view, everything was in place for us to begin.

Which left me with one thing last thing to sort out before I could crack on: I needed to get my head in the right place to use the week productively. I have spent the morning walking down a quiet beach, feeling the sand beneath my toes and the sea around my ankles. I am someone who spends a lot of time in my own head. This can be useful for writing, or, if I have other things on my mind, it can be very distracting. I have a strong inclination to over-indulge in introspection. The walk was about clearing my head. It was about putting on hold the thoughts that can wait until I get home and remembering that when it’s going well, I believe in this novel. I want it to be the best it can be, no matter how hard the journey is.

My walk allowed me to engage with the sense of calm and contentment that I always find on my own by the sea. By the sea is where I am internally happiest, flooded with a sense of calm and peacefulness.

Refreshed and reset, I climbed back up to the house. Now I am ready to work.


GBA Interview

Surreally enough, today I bring you audio. Embarrassed as I am to share the sound of my own voice, it seems to make sense. After all, why agree to a radio interview if you’re not going to share it? Below, you’ll find me interviewed for the very brilliant podcast, Getting Better Acquainted, hosted by my partner Dave Pickering (@goosefat101, if you’d like to follow him on Twitter). I talk about writing, my own brand of atheism, and my feelings about (not) having children. I also drink several glasses of wine, which accounts for the way the conversation meanders a little! So, without further ado, here is my episode of Getting Better Acquainted.


NB Dave has just been nominated for a Radio Production Award, in the category of ‘Best Online  Creator’. Follow Getting Better Acquainted on Twitter (@GBApodcast) for updates.



National Flash Fiction Day is nearly upon us (May 16th, if it isn’t already in your diary), so it seems like a good time to write a post about flash.

The term ‘flash fiction’ is one I’ve only recently started using – previously, I called my own flashes ‘micro fiction’. I think one of the reasons there isn’t a standard expression, is that flash is a widely under-appreciated genre (which is why so many writers are getting excited about NFFD).

Although flash fiction has plenty of history (think of Ernest Hemingway’s wonderful six-word story, For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn.), it doesn’t carry the same weight as other literary genres. But a good flash is a complete story, with as much potential for wheedling its way into a reader’s psyche as a novel. To work well, it requires economy of language, precision and confidence... and this makes for very exciting reading.

Flash fiction is ideal for new media, where the filters are loose, so of course there’s bad flash out there; maybe this is why we don’t respect it as much as we should. But there’s so much brilliant writing out there and the internet is our gateway to that. I’m still exploring what exactly makes a successful and exciting flash, but what an incredible journey it is. One of the reasons I love this genre is because it fits so neatly into the busy life of the modern reader. You’d have to be super-insanely-busy not to have time to read a 100 word story.

So how can we celebrate National Flash Fiction Day? Here are a few ideas:

  • Pre-order your copy of Jawbreakers, the NFFD anthology: you’ll get it at a reduced price if you do, and that way you’ll have a selection of flash to read over breakfast on the day.
  • Join Calum Kerr, the man we have to thank for all this NFFD goodness, for his flash fiction write-in. Those of us who have limited connections with Winchester University can take part virtually. I’ll be at work during the crucial hours, but I plan on squeezing a flash into my lunch break!
  • Head to the official launch of NFFD (if you happen to be in the Southampton area).
  • Look at the NFFD events page and see what’s happening near you.
  • Get yourself a copy of Tania Hershman’s new flash collection, My Mother was an Upright Piano. She’s one of the best flash writers I know of, and although I haven’t had chance to buy my own copy yet, I’ve heard some of the stories, and her last collection, The White Road and Other Stories, was wonderful.
  • Download the Ether Books app for your smart phone. There’s more than just flash on there but it’s a great way to read fiction on the go.
  • Join me on Twitter (@jadamthwaite), where I will be continuing my daily story-in-a-tweet challenge for #ThePush. Follow @goosefat101 for the prompts – what better day to join us than on NFFD? Twitter is a fabulous opportunity for the flash fiction writer. Not everything you write there will be great, but the beauty of Twitter is that it doesn’t care. It’s a great place to play with the process.
  • Finally, keep up to date with everything that’s happening for NFFD by following @nationalflashfd on Twitter.