Thoughts, questions, and random musings...

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  1. In one month from now, the very first Foreword Fringe Literature Festival will begin. In one month and two days, it will all be over.
            I can’t remember exactly when it started, but I know it was at the Market Cross Gallery in Bury St Edmunds. Sadly, that venue has closed down - one of the many casualties of obscene energy prices and lack of support for the arts. Myself, Rachel, and a random, organically-grown collection of Suffolk-based authors used to set out our stalls every month at their Maker’s Fairs.  We attempted to sell books and talk to strangers, entirely ignoring advice from parents and those horrific public information films they used to show on BBC2.
            It was probably the very first Market Cross Maker’s Fair where the idea of a Fringe Literature Festival came up. Only the two of us were there to test out the first one. We were either more desperate than most to get out of our houses after two years of lockdown, or we both had too many unsold boxes of books at home. It was both, in my case. Either way, we found ourselves there, face masks in place and hands duly sanitized. It’s strange now to think how clean our books must have been at that time. We can’t promise they will ever be that clean again! 
            From whenever that fateful day was until now, it’s been a whirl of ideas, notes - handwritten and digital - spreadsheets, zoom calls and four billion emails. (The last number is probably an exaggeration...only probably.) We started with no budget, called in favours, invited friends, shared everything we had, and said from the beginning that all we wanted was for ‘everybody to win.’ And people understood that because they want to work that way too. Given the chance, almost everybody does. And the whole thing is still growing too. A brand new event is about to be added, and there’s still time for us to create more. We’re a couple of authors, ideas are not the problem. Time and money are our only constraints, which is probably just as well.
            I wish we’d circled the date on the calendar when we actually decided: ‘Yes, let’s do it and start right now!’ but we didn’t mark it. Perhaps it seemed like just a nice dream at the time. Maybe we never believed we could actually do it.  But it is happening, and so often we remind each other that what we’ve done so far, creating something out of nothing, is extraordinary and, quite frankly, unbelievable.
            In one month and two days, the Foreword Festival will be packing up to go home. If it works, if people like it, if we’re not both totally mad by the end, perhaps we’ll dare to dream about doing it again next year. If and when we do decide that, I’ll make sure to circle the date on the calendar this time. Because you never know, somebody might ask us one day: ‘How did the first ever Fringe Literature Festival begin?’

    (Photo: at our first Market Cross maker's market, May 2022.)
    (L to R: Rachel Churcher and Jackie Carreira)


  2. For the first time in my writing journey, I decided to take part in the NaNoWriMo challenge - to write 50,000 words during the month of November. A mammoth task, and not for the faint-hearted.

    I've been trying to finish my third novel, and had been stuck on 40,000 words for months. This seemed like a good opportunity to unstick myself. Publicly declaring word counts and writing along with other authors was an interesting idea. Maybe sharing the journey would press me to get on with it.

    It started well. For the first four days, my word count was higher than the average needed to complete the 50k in time. However, like the vast majority of others in the challenge, my numbers started to slow before the end of the first week, missing days here and there and sometimes even fiddling with passages already written just to get my word count up.

    There is only a week to go. How am I doing? I'm around 18.000 words down and far too many to go to complete the required total in time. Pretty much the same as a lot of my new 'friends' on the website. Realistically I'll only be able to reach half the goal by the end of the month.

    Has it been a failure, then? If it's just about word count, then yes. There's no way I'm going to reach 50,000 words. BUT would I have written 18,000 words without joining the challenge? Probably not. I'm a professional procastinator. I'd got stuck in the middle of my new novel and had no-one to push start me again. As it is, the novel is more than half written and I've got renewed energy to carry on.

    Verdict: It's not just a numbers game. Writing 50,000 in a month - good, useful words - is amazing, but the best thing about NaNoWriMo is that it gives writers a reason to pick up their pens, switch on their laptops, and just get writing. At the end of November, rather than counting the words, use the kick start to keep writing for the other eleven months of the year. 

    I'll be joining up again next year. Why not try it yourself?