Miles & Miles: a creative journey

Miles W. Hewitt has just published Miles & Miles ~ A Lifetime of Travel Adventures in Asia and Latin America.

Elaine Cusack and Jane Roberts-Morpeth from The North Tyneside Writers’ Circle helped Miles on his creative journey from manuscript to Kindle.

Elaine asked him to share his thoughts on writing, publishing and travel…..

Miles&Miles_FrontCoverWhen I made the decision to write Miles & Miles, I had no idea that I was about to hurl myself into a creative oblivion. I set about acquiring the skills needed to navigate through this unknown world. The entire project took three years of determined anguish driven by an innate desire to share my travel experiences.

In the early stages, I gave various chapters to close friends for their honest feedback which indicated that it was a good story. My confidence was given a boost. All I needed to do now was learn how to create an interesting travelogue written as a novel.

Once the initial draft was in place, a grammatical mentor helped make the necessary adjustments. At this stage, I believed that I was eighty per cent of the way through to completion. When Elaine Cusack came into focus, I instinctively knew that she was my route to enlightenment. Her literary demeanour and creative countenance had a calming effect on my aspiring persona.

However, aspiration turned to shock and awe when she stamped all over the manuscript with her muddy boots and slashed at the copy with scrawls of red ink. Elaine’s professional observations were valid and her wondrous mentoring was underway. The realisation that I was in fact a mere twenty per cent into the process was juxtaposed with Elaine’s comments including “I like the pace of Miles & Miles…it has an exciting narrative.”

Miles 2017I gritted my teeth with a resolution to see it through to perfection. Comma clutter and split infinitives became the subject matter of my dreams. The creative journey was like crossing the Bay of Biscay in a rowing boat during a winter storm. Spring, summer and autumn followed but one day the wind suddenly relented, the fog dispersed and a pocket-sized seaport appeared on the horizon. The final stages were exhausting, I could see the church spire but making headway through the water felt heavy and progress was painfully slow. Even when we crawled into the harbour, I had to rub my bleary eyes to see the sculptured image of Miles & Miles beginning to emerge.

On the final lap, Jane Roberts-Morpeth added a new perspective with some positive input which included a slight structural change here and there plus further polishing before Miles & Miles came to life – published by Northumberland’s Limelight Classic Productions.

The book cover image was the only surviving photo from the 1970s of Herat in Afghanistan which I found in a drawer after my mother passed away. I chose a 10.5/13 Melior font to achieve the desired clarity and flow

The launch was two-fold, a quality paperback printed by Martins of Berwick who produce small runs with recycled paper at low prices for the retail market. Amazon covers the online presence with a worldwide print-on-demand facility for a hard copy which accompanies their Kindle download. They also have the infrastructure to originate an audio book on a royalty share basis. The links to various elements are listed below. Please get in touch if you have any questions.

Print-on-demand and Kindle download: https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/

Audio book overview: http://www.acx.com/

Facebook: www.facebook.com/mileswhewitt.milesandmiles

Twitter: www.twitter.com/mileswhewittau1

Buy Miles & Miles on Amazon

Kindle: www.tinyurl.com/MilesMiles-Kindle

Paperback: www.tinyurl.com/MilesMiles-Paperback

 

 

 

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Keeping My Soul

 

Oh Lion in a peculiar guise,

Sharp Roman road to Paradise,

Come eat me up, I’ll pay thy toll

With all my flesh, and keep my soul.

These lines come from Stevie Smith’s poem The Roman Road A Christian speaks to a Lion in the Arena.

stevieStevie’s words inspired my colleague Sandy Chadwin to suggest Keeping My Soul for the title of this coming Thursday’s event at North Shields Library.

Keeping My Soul: A Feast of Poetry, Story and Prose is an evening of performances by members of The North Tyneside Writers’ Circle (NTWC) which I run with Sandy and  Jennifer C Wilson.

NTWC meets on the third Saturday of most months in North Shields Library. The circle is free to attend and is open to writers of all ages and abilities. Keeping My Soul is a celebration of the group’s collective talent and will feature a mix of poetry, prose and memoir.

The line-up runs: Krys Wysocki, Susan Collings, Suzanne Lambert, Jane Roberts-Morpeth, Rob Walton, Penny Blackburn, Mary Pickin, Ross Punton, Alex Heppell and James A Tucker.

The event starts at 6.30pm. It’s free to attend but please book in advance by phoning (0191) 643 5270 or contact any North Tyneside Library. See you there!

by Elaine Cusack

 

 

 

 

Luck plus one

Are you sitting comfortably, then let Sandy Chadwin tell you all about the Pot Luck Club, returning to Newcastle’s Old George on Thursday 22nd March….

IT WAS NOT twenty years ago today but about two years ago that Elaine Cusack, Jen Wilson and I were drinking in North Shields’ oldest pub, the Low Lights Tavern. We were chatting about the spoken word events we were considering when one of us, I forget who, came up with the idea for the Pot Luck Club.

It had started as a joke. We had chatted about our perfect spoken word evening.  Who would we invite if we had access to unlimited funds and a time machine? I was holding out for Stevie Smith but Elaine vetoed her on the grounds that she had heard recordings and Smith had a terrible reading voice. TS Eliot was vetoed on the same grounds. Byron was dismissed as he would probably insist on bringing his bear with him and none of us were sure whether public liability insurance covered that kind of thing. I forget who ended up on the list, if we ever actually settled on a definitive one, which I doubt but I do remember that we agreed that such an evening would be invite only. A private evening for the connoisseur as it were.

fab-audienceAnd then, as these things happen, the conceit began to mutate and warp. We discussed the various writing forms that we had all experimented with but were outside our comfort zone. We chatted about how appalling it can be that first time standing up at an open mike evening in front of a friendly crowd who are, nevertheless, partly wondering if this is going to be the complete car crash reading of the night.

So the idea of the Pot Luck Club was born. We would invite established performers to try something different. Poets reading prose, story writers reading poetry and so forth, along with first time performers, nervous but wanting the experience. And it would be a safe space as the audience would all be invited.

There it was left and we moved on to discuss other matters of high moment and philosophical depth. Honest.

Later that  year Elaine and I were back at the Low Lights and were sitting in the separate room they have there, what in Edwardian detective or ghost stories would be described as the parlour, which has no bar, an open fire and is cut off from the rest of the pub by a glass door. Cloud 9, the Coast based theatre company, were performing a play in there the next week and we could see posters for talks and other such events, all to be held in this room.

This, we decided, was the venue for Pot Luck Club.

mister-creenSo it was, in late January 2017, we held the first Pot Luck Club and it was a success. We had playwrights telling stories, poets singing, story tellers reciting poetry, writers who had never before stood on their hind paws before an audience reading their stories and poems and the Legendary Ken Creen rounding the evening off. Did it work? Well it seemed to. The only problem was that the room was too small.

The logical, though sad, thing to do was to find another venue and this, with heavy steps we did. After some rootling around we chose the Old George in the centre of Newcastle. As it happens, the Low Lights Tavern is widely thought to be North Shields’ oldest pub and the Old George is widely believed (since the closure of the Cooperage) to be Newcastle’s. A pleasing albeit unplanned bit of continuity. We had already held a Pure Fiction event in the upstairs room there and found it good so, in the autumn of last year, we held the second Pot Luck Club. Same as before, though it happened that there were more first-timers this time rather than people outside their comfort zone though Elaine did recite a poem she had written that rhymed, a thing she had never done before in front of strangers. Vicky Arthurs, the poet, did us proud by acting as the headline act.

And now we’re doing it again. Same place, upstairs at the Old George, off the Bigg Market in the centre of Newcastle. We have established writers doing new and daring things and newer writers risking a plodge for the first time. Harry Gallagher is our headline. Other performers include  Rob Walton, The Cornshacks, Krys Wysocki, Alex Heppell and Isaac Parker .Harry Gallagher photo credit Phil Punton

And you are all, of course, invited.

The Pot Luck Club, Old George Inn, Cloth Market, Newcastle, NE1 1EZ. Thursday 22nd March. Free entry. Thanks to Chris Anderson and Phil Punton for photos.

October is the busiest month

We managed to sellotape Sandy “Busy Bee” Chadwin to his laptop for 10 minutes so he could write this blog…

For reasons that escape me, but are partly do with the time of year, I have a fair bit to do this autumn. Three gigs, to be precise, with two of them on the same day but it should be fun.

SandyFirst out of the hatch is They Walk That Should Not Walk, a talk that Elaine Cusack and I will be giving at the Northumberland Park Community Room (it’s attached to the café, or so I’m told) at 1:00pm this coming Thursday the 12th  of October. It’s part of the ‘Age Takes Centre Stage’ shenanigans that the council have put together for this month and it’s free though I think you need to register. Fuller details are here. If you’ve not been to the park (it’s between the golf course in North Shields and the Tynemouth Lodge pub) it’s a charming little place complete with its own pet cemetery and remains of a mediaeval hospital. And there’s a café. The talk (or chat more likely) will look at the history and fascination of the ghost story and if you’re coming, bring along memories of your favourite whether it’s one from Charles Dickens, EF Benson, Mrs Gaskell, or one of the James boys – Henry and MR. Should be fun, albeit in a somewhat macabre way.

Following that, I will have a brief pause before heading off to the Exchange in North Shields where, along with the Cracketts (a husband and wife folk duo) I’ll be presenting Tales from the Dead House at 7:30. This is an evening of spooky and macabre stories (from me) and songs (courtesy of the Cracketts) and is ticketed at £3.00, available on the door. Storytelling is a thing I do, unless politely but firmly stopped, and fits nicely with folk music and as the nights creep into the day, it’s the time to sit and listen, if only to escape the darkness outside. In the US they have the tradition of the campfire tale, a creepy and often gory story told while sitting round the fire while camping. Many of the urban myths we are so fond of probably started off as such tales – you know the kind of thing I mean. The Vanishing Hitchhiker (driver gives lift to girl only she disappears while still in the car and on subsequent investigation he discovers that she was run down and died on that very spot); Hairy Hands (woman gives lift to old lady but notices that she has suspiciously hairy hands and so when the old lady gets out at a garage to visit the toilet, the driver drives off and when she looks inside the bag left by the old lady, she finds it full of bloodied knives and a police investigation finds the clothes of an elderly woman in the toilet at the garage) and there are many others. I was actually told the hairy hands one by a friend back in the late ‘70s with the addition that the old lady was in fact the Yorkshire Ripper, who was still at large.

 MRJames1900Then, a full week later, I shall be giving a talk on the aforementioned MR James at the Old George in Newcastle at 7:30pm on the 19th. That has the bargain price of a mere £2.50. Buy your ticket in advance here. MR James is, I will be arguing, one of the best, if not the actual best, ghost story writer in English. He used to write them to tell to his Cambridge fellow dons on Christmas Eve and they are a potent mix of donnish humour and subtle horror. I did my dissertation on him back in the mid- ‘80s when you weren’t meant to take things like ghost stories as serious literature. My supervisor spent the first week or so constantly thinking I was writing about Henry James (no mean slouch at the ghost story himself as anyone who’s read ‘The Turn of the Screw’ will attest) and the external examiner mourned that I had wasted my time on such a petty subject. But now, Newcastle University does a module on them as part of its Eng. Lit degree or certainly did so a few years back, and you cannot buy a critical study of James or ghost stories in general for less than £30 odd. Hmm, perhaps I should dig out that dissertation…

Pure Fiction on Thursday!

Pure Fiction logoPure Fiction is The Next Page’s regular literary event, dedicated to writers of fiction and their work.

We held two Pure Fiction events in Whitley Bay last year featuring writers Kitty Fitzgerald, Carol Clewlow, L.A. Craig plus The Next Page’s Jennifer C. Wilson and Sandy Chadwin,

Our third Pure Fiction event takes place this Thursday 11th May  in Newcastle’s oldest pub, The Old George Inn, just off the Bigg Market. The evening features Rod Glenn and Victoria Watson.

Rod is the author of best-selling Sinema series, the first of which introduces us to the film-obsessed serial killer, Han Whitman. Victoria is a writer, copy-editor and Creative Writing tutor. She has won awards for both her fiction and non-fiction.Rod Glenn

Victoria-WatsonDoors open 6.45pm and event kicks off at 7pm.  Sandy Chadwin will kick off the evening with one of his Tall Tales and the event is hosted by his Next Page colleague, Elaine Cusack.

old georgeTickets cost £3 and we advise booking in advance from Ticketsource.

Writers need people!

James Tucker is our guest blogger today….

I once remarked to my then-girlfriend about how artistic people could be hard work sometimes.  ‘Yes, you certainly are!’ was her response.  I hadn’t really thought of myself in those terms but then I felt good about it.  I could now strike official Artistic Poses, and my various gripes (block, comparisons, criticisms, doubt, obsession, etc) would be justified because I was a Tormented Genius.

Sometimes, though, the “artist” business strikes me as odd because writing is almost inherently introverted.  You can do it in company but it boils down to you spending a lot of time with a piece of paper or keyboard and your attention focused on the work.  It’s the kind of art that someone shy and possibly without any previously detected artistic talent or temperament can aspire to.

But I’m not sure there is any such thing as a pure introvert.  Sooner or later, you will need to get some motivation or perspective from another person to keep going.  Not to mention that writing is also a craft, and has to be learnt.  One of my lecturers defined a writer as someone who would write even if they knew for a fact nobody else would ever see it, but that would be unpleasant and inefficient at the least.James again

So here’s a rub: unless you are that rare person who writes entirely for your own enjoyment, then at some point, somebody else is going to have to read it.  Or, you will have to read it to them.  It may feel like you are exposing something deeply personal; if you have spent a long time with your work, you may even be a little jealous of sharing it.  You will discover whether being heard is a want or a need, or both.

After which, some of the people exposed to your work may say something back.  If you are lucky, it may be something you can use to improve, and you take it as such.  If you are very lucky, you may be that even rarer person whose first work is an instant success.  But that happens less often than you think; To Kill a Mockingbird is often called a brilliant first novel when in fact it was Harper Lee’s first published novel, there was at least one before that didn’t make it.

Of course taking a compliment can be pretty tough, sometimes even less comfortable than criticism.  Yet you probably aspire to more of it.

(Just to prove a point… this blog post is better for exposure to the Next Page group (Jennifer C Wilson, Elaine Cusack, Sandy Chadwin) and the Elementary Writers group run by Victoria Watson, not to mention John Evans at the Phil.)

If you successfully tread the path to major author, you will be expected to do readings and signings with talks.  Best get some practice in early.  You don’t have to be Jackanory but competence and comfort will be necessary.

So… don’t let the road be too lonely.  Sometimes you may walk together in companionable silence, sometimes pause to share provisions and compare blisters, perhaps even take time to plan your route with someone.  Or just nod to a fellow traveller as you pass.  It’ll be worth it.

Pure Fear: a true story

L.A. Craig perfomed at our second Pure Fiction event in Whitley Bay library last November. Here are her reflections on that experience…

The email from Elaine said, ‘Invitation to Read your Work’. My reaction? No way, Jose, not on your nelly, never in a million years.

Why?

Lisa reading b&wBecause I’m not a speaking out loud kind of person, and anyway I can’t even speak that loud, but mostly– who would want to listen? Sure, I’d had snippets published here and there, but in theory, I’d never actually gone public before. Not in the flesh.

Elaine mentioned there would be questions.

What? Don’t think so. Good lord, I don’t even know what I’m about, never mind complete strangers wanting answers.

Sleep on it, I thought. Come up with a fail-safe reason to turn this down in the nicest possible way.

I’m not the most eloquent bod off paper. It’s one of the reasons I write. So, for me, being asked to perform, even in a room no bigger than a kitchen-diner (well, maybe a bit), was on a par with standing naked in the Albert Hall with everybody pointing. Feel the fear (you know the rest), my partner said, but I was having none of it. Mind firmly made up, I went to bed.

Next day, I emailed my response.

If I was billed as the newbie, baby, novice writer… so as not to get anyone’s hopes up, then…maybe I’d do it.

Where did that come from?

Well – down in the deepest darkest corner of my subconscious, I knew I had no choice. If I wanted to be a big grown-up writer, I’d have to kick Nervous Nelly to the kerb.

In the weeks beforehand I practised my bestest reading out loud.

“Louder!” said Elaine.

I practised reading slowly.

“Slower!” Elaine said.

Font magnified to see-it-from-the-moon-size, tons of white space as a reminder to breathe – I placed my comfort blanket of words in a writery folder.

The actual day. Good God, people were turning up – mostly to hear Carol Clewlow, but the poor souls would be forced to listen to me first. Sorry folks. Let’s get this over with as quickly as possible (oh no you don’t, you’ll read slowly).

So, I read in my loudest, slowest voice. Yes, my kneecaps were anxious and all my saliva nipped off on a last-minute city break. At one point, there was even an out of body experience (this isn’t really you speaking, yes, it is, no it’s not), but…but…but – I got through it, and at the end, lovely audience members came up for a chat. I couldn’t believe they’d been listening. And some even had questions I could answer!

So, cheers Elaine, for the kick in the pants. And to any other writers out there in need of a swift boot up the backside (administered with patience and encouragement, of course) – Elaine Cusack’s your woman.

Pure Fiction logoL.A. Craig (Lisa, when she’s not being all writery) is a writer based in Whitley Bay.  She received a New Fiction Bursary from the Northern Writers’ Awards in 2014 for her children’s novel, Hosannas and Sleeping Bags, and her short story Flour Baby was broadcast on Radio 4 the following year.

Lisa is currently working on her second children’s novel and has recently been signed by Jane Willis at United Agents.