Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts

Thursday, 7 January 2021

What fresh hell is this? The B-word and creative freelancers by Dawn Finch

I have always held the opinion that it's probably best not to express too many opinions. This means that I have usually opted to not say anything at all about Brexit preferring to wait for people to tell me just one positive fact about it (still waiting, by the way...). Facts - love those, but like all of us, I'm drowning in opinions right now and those are not always the same as facts.

Most of us are already feeling the negative impact of changes that restrict our freedom of movement and impede our ability to see Europe as our wider work-space, but for most of us, we simply feel so overwhelmed by the whole thing that it just feels like a massive dog-pile of opinions. Picking the facts out of this dog-pile is becoming increasingly difficult and it is with great relief that I read the latest piece from the Society of Authors. I say "relief" but I should stress that's not relief about the content, but about the fact that the details her are at least clear and understandable.

The end to Freedom of Movement means that many creatives will have to negotiate complicated visa and work permit regimes before travelling to EU27 countries and we'll all need to be aware of the extent of any potentially varying exclusions that may apply to us. Authors travelling to an EU country for research or work should remember from now on to check with the UK consular office or embassy, and this is not always going to be as simple as it sounds. There is a significant risk of backlogs, and of paperwork delays as even the embassies try to set into place how this will all work.

Some things are clear, such as the fact that we should still be able to work in France for up to 90 days without a visa, but we will need a work permit. Sadly the details for other countries are still up in the air and awaiting conditions based on reciprocal arrangements that have yet to be agreed.

There is, of course, a huge amount of confusion and uncertainty about the emerging rules, but what is clear to the Society of Authors is that it will "present a costly and complex barrier to thousands of freelancers working in the creative industries". The Society draws attention to a petition calling for a Visa-free work permit for touring creative professionals that has already gained well over 200,000 signatures.

I would strongly recommend reading the Society of Authors' article and following them on social media for regularly updated information. With so many opinions flying around it is refreshing to have a source of information tailored to my needs as a freelance creative European.

Access the latest news from the Society of Authors via their website, and the article referred to in this piece can be found here.

Dawn Finch is an author and information professional.


Monday, 4 March 2019

Out of my depth in Cambodia - Ciaran Murtagh

One of the perks of my job is that I get to travel.

I am currently in Cambodia working with children and encouraging them to think creatively – something that, not that many years ago, would have got you removed to a detention centre.

It’s always inspiring to come to places like this. The vivacity of the children and the desire to learn and progress is a joy to behold. Many know just how much their parents have sacrificed in order to give them opportunities that they and previous generations did not have. They don’t want to waste any of it.

However, every day I am reminded that the same is not the case for every child in this country. It’s depressing, that travelling as a single white man of a certain age in this country comes with certain assumptions. I learned that telling anyone I was here to speak to children gives a VERY wrong impression.

It’s easy to be downhearted by the plight of so many in this country, and the difference in wealth is stark. However, as I visited the Killing Fields I was treated to the sound of children playing in the school yard next door. In this monument to past atrocities, the sound of hope for the future rang out. We should not forget that within my life time, schools were being converted into torture centres here. The fact that there’s any hope at all should be celebrated.

As I make my way home, one incident will stay with me for a long time. Last night I wandered out of the city and found a fairground. There was a tacky looking house of horrors attraction – you basically walked through a dark maze while ‘ghosts’ shouted boo. However, as I wandered about in the dark, it became clear to the teenage, minimum wage ‘ghosts’ that I wasn’t the usual customer – I was a white European – and instead of saying ‘boo’ I got, ‘hello, where are you from?’ and ended up with curious ghosts, Frankenstein monsters and vampires trailing me through the attraction asking me about the colour of my hair and whether I knew Lady Gaga.

It was symbolic of everything I’ve found out here. Young people want to learn, they want to ask questions and they want to get on. They didn’t see me as an outsider to be feared, they saw me as an opportunity for them to learn.

In a world increasingly divided by adults, let’s hope the kids protesting climate change, gun laws and yes, asking questions of a man they meet in a haunted house, prevail. I have a feeling they will, in a way the fact that I am able to come here at all proves that they have. 

Apologies for the lack of pics... normal service will resume next time.

Monday, 25 February 2019

Hunting for Treasure - by Liz Kessler

I’ve always believed that writing a book is a very special journey of trust and exploration. It’s like a dance, maybe, or a relationship, or a treasure hunt. In fact, it’s all of those things and more. 

I am actually in awe of the way a book tiptoes into existence. How does it do that? I mean, yes, I put in the hours – lots and lots of them – but I am convinced that there is something more to it than that. Something beyond me, and beyond my understanding. I don’t know exactly what it is, but I do know I am grateful for it.

When I was a child, I used to read Whizzer and Chips and The Beano. One of my favourite things in these comics (other than The Numbskulls; I ADORED The Numbskulls) was a feature on the puzzle page. The Hidden Objects puzzle.

They looked a bit like this:

If you imagine that this picture is the world, and the hidden objects are the pieces of your story, this is what writing a book is like.

The pieces of the book could be hidden anywhere – in a castle or a shop or on a path; in an object on the beach; in the bushy grey hair of someone’s beard; in an unusually shaped cloud; in a conversation. They could be anywhere. I firmly believe that my job as a writer isn’t about making up stories – it is about finding the pieces and putting them together until they form the story they were always meant to be.

I have written over twenty books, and out of them all, this journey of bringing together pieces of treasure to form the story has happened particularly intensely on two occasions. Once was with my Young Adult book, Haunt Me, where every scene came to life in my head as I walked along the coast path listening to a playlist I made especially for this book.

The other time was with my latest book, Emily Windsnap and the Pirate Prince.

I can’t help thinking it’s quite appropriate that a book involving pirates and treasure has brought me closer to this treasure hunt than ever before.

Unusually for my books, I knew the title before I knew anything else. A chance remark from my amazing US publicist Tracy Miracle (yes that’s her real name, and yes she does live up to it) meant that the Pirate Prince was mooching around in the back of my mind for a year or so before it was time to write his story.

That chance remark was the first piece of treasure.

When the time came to start writing the book, I had to decide where to go on a research trip. (I love my research trips and always have at least one per book. They have taken me to all sorts of places from the beaches of Bermuda to a Devon village completely destroyed by a storm.) This one was an easy decision: I had to go on a tall ship.

And here’s where piece of treasure two came in. After a day of scouring the internet for suitable trips, I came across a last-minute opportunity to be part of a tall ship crew. It was sailing out of Tenerife for a week around the Canary islands, and was leaving in five days.

Five days later I was on that ship.

As research trips go, this one was about as special as it gets. Sailing on the ocean on the beautiful Morgenster, feeling the breeze in my hair, tasting the salty spray, hearing the tinkling of the masts at night, witnessing a sky packed full of stars as the ship sliced through dark waves: I lost count of how many pieces of story-treasure I found that week.

The phosphorescence as the waves glinted at us like stars at night; the dolphin that swam through these lights; the inspiring personalities of the ship’s crew, many of whose names I used in the book; the locker that I sat on with my notebook out on the deck, which became known as ‘Liz’s office’; the sunrise across the water; the shop where I bought a crystal on a chain without knowing why, other than a kind of inner knowledge that it would appear in the book – and it did. The old pirate stories one of my crewmates told me each day. And above all, the beauty of the tall ship, Morgenster, that I fell a little bit more in love with each day. Treasure upon treasure, the building blocks of my story were found, gathered, stored for later.

But a little while after arriving home, I had a sense that there were more pieces waiting for me somewhere else.

Several years earlier, I had witnessed an amazing sight at Mont St Michel in France. It was a spring tide and we happened to be there at the exact moment the tide charged in so fast it was like a river. I had never seen a tide come in like this and I was hungry to witness it again. I felt sure that it would have something to do with my book.

So, my partner and I headed off on a road trip to France. I timed the trip for a day when the tide would be at its strongest and highest, and I booked us a room on the outskirts of the castle on the island of Mont St Michel. And here’s where the strange thing happened.

The tide didn’t move me, as I had thought it would. It didn’t race up the beach, carrying inspired thoughts about my plot along with it. We watched, and yes, it was a fast moving tide, but I didn’t feel anything, and my book didn’t call out to it.

For a moment, I wondered if we had wasted the trip. And then the next day, we walked around the castle, and explored the narrow, winding, cobbled streets around it – and something began to stir.

Yes, the tide had brought me back here. But it dawned on me that the tide wasn’t the hidden object in the picture after all. Instead, it was the bustling, bartering atmosphere of the small village that would find its place in my book.

And I remembered that in the old picture puzzles, sometimes you found the objects in places you would not expect to find them. Sometimes you had to work a little bit harder to find the hidden treasures.

Once more, I came home with a head full of ideas and a notebook full of scribbles. And I finally had enough pieces of the puzzle to start working on threading it all together.

And here we are, nearly two years on from my wonderful trip on the Morgenster, and the book is out next month. This is why I love being a writer. Not for sales or awards. (Just as well as I’m not really an award-winning type of author!) Not even for the emails and letters from happy readers, although they are right up there with the best things about the job. 

I love being a writer for the journey. For those moments of connection. For the joy of creativity, in and of itself, seeking nothing but wonder. And above all, for the privilege of following a path that I know for sure is paved with a sprinkling of magic.

Check out Liz's Website 
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Saturday, 17 May 2014

Writing and Place: How Santa Barbara Sunshine Led To a Tale of Wolves and Snowy Woods – by Emma Barnes

I’ve just come back from a visit to Santa Barbara.  It was wonderful to revisit old haunts – the Daily Grind coffee shop, Chaucer Books – and to spend time watching the dolphins and pelicans from Arroyo Burro beach, smell the roses near the Mission, and most of all, bask in California sunshine after a long, cold, Yorkshire winter. 

It also made me think about the relationship between writing and place.

It was while I was in Santa Barbara I got a message saying that my book Wolfie had won a Fantastic Book Award (voted for by children across Lancashire).  This seemed fitting, as it was actually while I was staying in Santa Barbara, five years ago, that I wrote Wolfie.  And that made me think how odd it was that a book about wolves and deep winter woods (so atmospherically brought to life in Emma Chichester Clark’s illustrations) should have been created in such a completely different environment.

cover: Emma Chichester Clark
I remember the process well.  I’d walk my daughter to preschool – passing rows of jacaranda trees, an open air swimming pool and banks of creeping rosemary.  Then I’d go home and open my laptop and plunge into a world where a wolf appears in an ordinary British neighbourhood, and takes the heroine into a snow-filled world of adventure.  Maybe it was the contrast itself that got my imagination going?  I was certainly driven: tapping away intently, working against the clock until pick-up time.  

illustration: Emma Chichester Clark
 Of course many writers are inspired by their particular environment and its familiarity.  But I wonder how often writers are inspired to write about a setting precisely because it isn’t there?  Quite often, I suspect.  In some cases, this might be tinged with homesickness, or nostalgia for a place and time lost.

Certainly, one of the most evocative children’s books that I know, in terms of creating a setting, is Susan Cooper’s Dark Is Rising – part of the famous fantasy series of the same title.  This book is set in rural Berkshire near Windsor, and Will’s house, the village, the manor and the surrounding landscape are brilliantly portrayed: so real, so immediate, but also echoing with the years of history that lie behind.  When Will sets out into the woods he may meet a Smith from centuries past, or a tramp who has travelled through time, or the mythical Herne the Hunter: somehow the place can contain them all.  This capturing of landscape is also a feature of Cooper’s other books – the mountains of Wales in The Grey King, and a Cornish village in Greenwitch.

These books capture perfectly a British place and time (and I say time because I suspect the “present day” Berkshire that Cooper portrays has probably now been lost as totally as her Medieval or Dark Age versions, under the pressures of modern development).  Yet they were written when Cooper was far from her original home, living on the East Coast of the US.  In interviews, she has described how she was cross country skiing (a thoroughly un-British activity) when the idea of The Dark Is Rising came to her.

I’m certainly grateful for my time in California.  Towards the end of my stay I also went to the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference, which was stimulating in a different way.  And I enjoyed happy hours running on the beach.  But mainly those months were a warm, calm, interlude: a bubble in which I managed to write a book.

Maybe one cold, winteryYorkshire morning I will sit down and find myself writing a tale of sunshine, sand and dolphins…

Emma's new book, Wild Thing,  about the naughtiest little sister ever (and her bottom-biting ways), is out now from Scholastic. It is the first of a series for readers 8+.
"Hilarious and heart-warming" The Scotsman
"Charming modern version of My Naughty Little Sister" Armadillo Mag

 Wolfie is published by Strident.   Sometimes a Girl’s Best Friend is…a Wolf. 
Winner of 2014 Fantastic Book Award
"A real cracker of a book" Armadillo 
"Funny, clever and satisfying...thoroughly recommended" Books for Keeps
"This delightful story is an ideal mix of love and loyalty, stirred together with a little magic and fantasy" Carousel 

Emma's Website
Emma’s Facebook Fanpage
Emma on Twitter - @EmmaBarnesWrite

Monday, 13 January 2014

How it all started by Karen King

I came across this poem the other day, it has lots of memories for me as it's one I used to read with my dad. When Dad read this poem to us he often said that it reminded him to try and take time in the busy day to notice what was around him. To look at the clouds in the sky, to smell the flowers, to listen to the birds singing. Especially good advice for a writer.

My dad loved books and he instilled that love of books in me. We spent many Saturday afternoons browsing through the dusty shelves of a second-hand bookshop, where my brothers and I would be allowed to choose a book each - and sometimes two - to take home. Oh the delight of being surrounded by so many books, and the agony of deciding which one to choose.

I still remember some of them now. The book of ballet that told all the stories behind the ballets and inspired in me the desire to be a ballet dancer -  two or three ballet lessons where I constantly danced out of step soon put me off that idea. The travel books that inflamed my desire to see as many different countries as possible - a desire I still have today, the poetry books which we all used to take turns to read, the story books about magical wooden horses, vengeful leprechauns and fairies, flying carpets and naughty schoolgirls which inspired my love of reading and writing. That's where it all started, where the budding writer was born, in those backstreet second-hand bookshops with their creaking shelves of passed-on books. So I owe my love of reading and writing to my dad.

Unfortunately Dad died when he was 51, he never lived to see me become a writer but I'm sure he knows and I hope he now has time 'to stand and stare.'

What about you? What inspired your love of reading and writing?

Karen King writes all sorts of books,  her latest one is Get Writing: Children's Fiction, published by How To Books. Visit her website at for more details.