Workshops at Swiss Cottage Library

I’ll be running three free workshops at Swiss Cottage Library from 5-8pm fortnightly on Wednesdays 22nd April and 6th and 20th May. The workshops will be on starting, plotting and structuring, and then finishing and editing a short story. The workshops are being organised around the Cityread London2015 programme.
10 pictures that are part of the London Borough of Camden’s Art Collection will be on display in the library and you are invited to create your own short story of between 800 and 1200 words. You can either try to weave all the pictures into your story or just concentrate on a few. Send the stories to and the stories will be loaded onto the website and some of the stores will be displayed in the Gallery along with the 10 pictures that inspired them!

Doctor Gavrilov

Doctor Gavrilov coverI am publishing my new novel, Doctor Gavrilov, as an eBook and a paperback in January. It will be distributed to bookshops by Central Books and I’m doing a talk at the Broadway Bookshop, Broadway Market in Hackney on Friday 30th January.

It’s incredibly liberating and thrilling that it is now so easy to produce an eBook and also a high quality short print-run. My former business partner in the small independent Maia Press, Jane Havell, has done a fantastic job of designing the book jackets and interiors, and it has been such fun to be so closely involved in the whole production process – and being able to make all my own decisions.

I’m looking forward very much to launching the book next week. The jacket image is above. There’s a prize for the closest guess to what’s in the suitcase if you post a guess before publication day!




New Year’s Resolutions

It’s that time when we review what we’ve achieved in the past year and think about what we hope to get done in the next. Why not write down your writing targets for the year ahead? Make these as specific and as challenging as you can. Yes, resolutions are often made to be broken – but in trying to meet them you can often get more done than if you had not set yourself a goal in the first place.

Your targets could be a number of words you want to write, or a number of stories or chapters, or to enter a certain number of writing competitions – anything you think you can achieve, even if its means a huge effort. And it will require an effort, because writing, as you all know, is never easy.

Above all, though, you must write what you want to write – because you want to write it. Don’t get caught in the trap of writing what you think other people want you to write, or what you think might get published, or what you think is fashionable at the moment. Just write whatever you are drawn to, however strange it might seem. Booker prize-winning author wrote a fantastic piece this recently in The Guardian which touches on this theme – you can read it here:

So: happy writing, and I wish you all the best for a fulfilling and creative 2015!


Creative Writing Exercises For Dummies

Finally it’s here! It’s almost exactly a year ago that Mike Baker at Wiley asked me to write a follow-up to the successful Creative Writing For Dummies. It wasn’t exactly an easy journey, not least because, a short while after I started work, with a very tight deadline, I developed a very severe case of frozen shoulder which meant I was unable to use my right arm and couldn’t type – and was also maxed out on painkillers. I had to write much of the book using voice recognition software – an entirely new experience for me!

All For Dummies books go through a very rigorous editing process, and in addition, authors are now expected to get their own permissions for quoting extracts from other books. So it was very hard work indeed. However, it’s all done at last. The book is based on my 20 years’ experience of teaching creative writing, and is packed full of exercises which should help you on your writing journey and contains lots of tips and examples as well.

9781118921050I want to give a special thanks to my Project Manager, Michelle Hacker, who was a star. And thanks also to Howard Cunnell for acting as Technical Editor and making such helpful suggestions in places, and Rachel Knightley who helped me hugely while I couldn’t type!

I’m launching the book at Waterstones, Islington tomorrow, 9 October, from 6-9pm. You can order the book from them, from Amazon (click here), or from any good bookshop.



Win a free place on one of our courses

We are delighted to be offering a free place on one of our writing courses to the winner of a Hesperus Press competition to write a haiku.

Hesperus Press are a brilliant independent publisher who publish fiction in translation. The haiku competition is to celebrate the publication of Denis Thériault’s The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman, a wonderfully quirky and original tale about a postman in Quebec who learns to write haikus.

The haiku competition is now open and you can enter at:

Weekend Workshop 13-14 September

We still have a few places left on our September Weekend Workshop. This is for anyone with a writing project who wants some focused writing time and space to concentrate on their work. On this weekend, we will be looking especially at plot and structure, and there will be plenty of exercises to help you tackle problems and explore new ideas.

Do get in touch if you’d like to attend.

Creative Writing Games

My son Toby is just launching London’s first board games cafe in Haggerston this autumn, called Draughts. It’s going to be a unique venue where you can meet and play games with your friends and eat high quality food and drink. Check out their website at

I’m planning a couple of creative writing workshops there later this year to celebrate the launch of my latest book on writing, Creative Writing Exercises for Dummies. We’ll be playing some writing games, inspired by this quote from Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children: ‘All games have morals; and the games of Snakes and Ladders captures, as no other activity can hope to do, the eternal truth that for every ladder you climb, a snake is waiting just around the corner; and for every snake, a ladder will compensate.’ How true of plotting fiction! We’ll be using games to help you plot your story, flesh out your characters, and explore different settings and scenarios.

Let me know if you want to go on the mailing list for information on the workshops – places will be limited!

Summer Workshop 26-29 August

Our first summer workshop booked up so fast  that it’s full already, so we have fitted in a second workshop at The Groucho Club from 26-29 August. This is a workshop for people at all levels, with inspiring exercises, group work and an opportunity to have a one-to-one session to discuss a sample of your work.

I love teaching the summer workshop – it’s always such fun and full of unexpected insights and surprises. If you want a few days concentrating on your work in progress or finding new inspiration, then this is for you!

A new term begins

This term’s courses start today. We still have a few places left on our remaining course starting Monday 12th May and Saturday 17th May, so do take a look at the dates.

I’m really looking forward to the term. New beginnings are always exciting, and the spring is also a great time to start on something new. So, think of a new beginning for one of your characters. Write a scene in which they embark on something different, starting a new project or a new relationship, and leaving something old behind.

If you’ve been working on a project for some time, why not write a new story, something completely unconnected with what you’ve done before? Maybe try a new genre, or write from a different point of view. Surprise yourself! And you may well come back to your long-term project with more enthusiasm and a new impetus.

On the Easter weekend

I love Easter. It’s a big festival that carries so much less stress and weight of expectation that Christmas. There are hot cross buns and Easter eggs and Simnel cake and a family roast lamb lunch to look forward to, and everything in the garden is bursting into flower. I get up before daybreak to go to the early service, walking to church in the milky light through the hushed streets with the dawn chorus filling the air. We light the paschal candle and process into the church just as, since the dawn of mankind, human beings must have carried this precious flame into their holy places, marking the passage from winter to spring, from darkness into light, from death to life.

My novel, The Resurrection of the Body, takes place over the Easter weekend and mirrors the Easter story. Why not write your own story set at Easter? And if you do, why not send me the result?

Happy writing – and happy Easter!