Little Bird is almost ready to take flight. It can be pre-ordered on Amazon so it must be a real live book. Go grab yourself a copy and make me happy. And remember, every time a book gets a review, a writer gets their wings.
Writing the book is only the beginning. There’s the rewrites, the second, third, fourth and even fifth drafts. There’s the proper edits and then at the end of all that, if you are still mad enough to love writing, you have something resembling a book. I am almost at that stage.
My brilliant publishers, Betsy and Fred, partnered me up with editor Emma Mitchell. Emma read the manuscript, marked up her suggestions and then we had a telephone conversation where we talked about my characters as if they were real people. It has been amazing to have someone with such insight and editorial clarity working on my manuscript. She could see the world I had created, could inhabit it, and relate to my characters and care about them.
Reaching this stage was not easy. The final hurdle felt like an insurmountable wall. My computer chose to die with my final three weeks of edits apparently lost, along with realms of other stories, the beginning of my next book, workshop notes and research documents. Thankfully, a computer fixer guy on the Lisburn Road was able to do whatever technological magic it took, to retrieve almost all of my work. I am hoping that this marks the end of a month long period of everything going wrong. Seriously, if I told you the things that happened and got broke, during those four weeks, you’d think I was exaggerating. Scruffy, below, nearly dying was one of the bad things to occur.
But…deep breath, it’s over. On to good things, like planning the book launch, and making progress on book two. Wish me well!
Reading: Here and Gone, Haylen Beck, Little Deaths, Emma Flint
Listening to: KOL, disappointed not to be able to make the Dublin concert
Watching: House of Cards
So, good news.
My debut crime novel Little Bird is being published by the wonderful Bloodhound Books. Cue much excitement and terror at the thought of my 103, 577 words being read by real people.
Bestselling crime writer, Louise Phillips has been kind enough to support the book throughout its creation, and has given me a fine quote to put on the cover:
“A search for identity, set against evil and revenge…a thrilling debut.”
Little Bird will be published on 31st of July.
Sharon Dempsey is a Belfast based writer of fiction and non-fiction books, with four health books published. She facilitates therapeutic creative writing classes for people affected by cancer and runs a creative writing group for young people, called Young Scribblers. Sharon studied Politics and English at Queen’s University and went on to City University to do a postgraduate diploma in journalism.
Through the Arts Council NI’s Support for the Individual Artist Programme, Sharon was awarded funding, to be mentored by Irish crime writer Louise Phillips, while writing Little Bird, her first crime novel.
Roald Dahl provided the inspiration for today’s workshop. We read the chapter Chocolates from Dahl’s autobiography ‘Boy’ and discussed how real life can inspire all sorts of stories.
Each child was asked to create their own chocolate confectionery. They had to come up with a weird or wacky design and to write about how they would market their product.
We then held presentations – each inventor had to present their idea to us, the chocolate factory board of directors, and we voted for the design which we felt was most innovative.
This week at Young Scribblers we designed our own tree houses. This activity encouraged our young writers to consider space and place and to invent ways of exploring their environment.
They were asked to imagine what their dream tree house would look like. I told them to think about being high up in a tree- what to you see out the window- your house or your school? What do your hear- birds? Aeroplanes?
Is it peaceful in your treehouse? What do you do in it? Read? Write? Draw?
Who would be allowed to visit you?
What kind of food would you bring with you?
Would you sleep in it? What would it feel like at night time? Consider the darkness, the noises. Would it be cold? Would there be bats flying around?
We then had a fun discussion about what features we would like to have in our tree house.Suggestions included: telescope, trapdoor, slide, swing a hammock, Zip lines
Rope swings, ladders and bridges
Clothesline pulley with bucket between tree house and kitchen for frequent snacks (or to lower to the ground to fetch provisions)
Pirate’s treasure chest
Tennis ball/potato launcher
Fire pole or slide
Solar-powered lights or lanterns
Fold-down benches and tables
The Young Scribblers then began designing their tree houses. We finished by writing about the most interesting features and being highly descriptive. More advanced writers were asked to use their treehouse as the setting for a story.
One of the most effective ways of teaching young writers about characterisation is to encourage them to dress up as a character they are familiar with.
Our Young Scribblers came to the workshop today in costume.
They were asked to create a character profile. A character profile involves thinking about the character’s hopes and dreams, as well as being descriptive. The young writers had to describe the personality of their character while thinking about appearance, background, and personality traits.
When we had done this we then moved on to point of view. Identifying and understanding POV is important for both reading skills and creative writing. Put simply, POV is the person telling the story. We see the story unfold from their viewpoint.
To enable the Young Scribblers to put their characterisation knowledge and POV together they were asked to do one of the following:
Write letter to another character from your character’s POV.
Write a missing chapter from the book from the character’s POV.
Create a new story with your character in it and show the narrative through their POV.
This week our Young Scribblers were introduced to Shakespeare. We did a table reading of Macbeth, Act IV scene 1, when the witches summon the spirits. We talked about the purpose of the witches in the play, how they may have been played by men originally, and how we think of witches. We then had great fun acting out the voices when performing the spell with everyone shouting out together:
Double, double toil and trouble,
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
We then made a list of alternative nasty and disgusting things to throw into the cauldron – toe nails, a witch’s wart and fish guts were among the many ideas the Scribblers came up with. We described how we thought the witches should look; each Scribbler acting as a director to make decisions on costume, hair, make up and props. To help the younger Scribblers I provided a word bank and a list of basic questions to prompt their ideas.
Nasty, evil, cunning, ugly, wrinkled, warts, frizzy, slimy, crooked nose, croaky voice, scary, troublesome, dangerous.
What do you think the witches should look like?
Write a description with lots of details. Be imaginative.
A witch has…
She smells like…
She sounds like…
Her skin is…