I have been very lucky in my new life so far. I have been able to pass my driving test and buy my longed for camper van, travel and spend lots of time crafting, meeting so many lovely people on the way. There is another aspect to my life that I am also really loving, and that is my new role as a writer.
I have always enjoyed writing, along with reading which I loved from a very early age, and like many people I started writing novels when I was younger. However, I didn’t really have the time to devote to it before, but it has now become a big part of my life here now.
I am about half way through my first novel, at this rate the first one will take me about 3 years but there is no rush, I am very much enjoying the process as well as what I am producing. You may not be surprised to know that it is based around historical textiles, and the women associated with them. In fact I have the outline for 5 novels, all based on pieces of textiles that I have have either owned or seen in museums. As you know I am always interested in the provenance of anything I find, who made it, how did it end up here?
My first novel is based around Hardwick Hall, and the needlework of Bess of Hardwick so has involved lots of really interesting research. I have previously read a lot about Bess, but have been doing a lot more reading, of other people’s dissertations and academic papers, which has meant I have put my previous academic skills to good use.
I have also been doing a few courses to help me along the way. Last year, and earlier this year I did some on creative writing. Firstly they were with an organisation called Future Learn, who offer free courses on a large variety of subjects. The Start Writing Fiction and the How to Read a Novel were really helpful for thinking about how to structure the work and about character development.
Earlier this year I took two Creative Writing courses with the Workers’ Educational Association, the WEA. I worked for them about 30 years ago, when I was teaching in the Adult and Community sector and loved the role so it was nice to come full circle and be a student with them. They are a wonderful organisation, as the name suggest they have a long history of community education and offer affordable courses on a variety of topics. I have actually just finished another short course with them on The History of Canals, that is some research for a future book.
I have also done a little field trip to help me with the setting of the novel. One of the really useful things about doing the courses is they prompt you think about how your characters are going to come across and so I have had to build a story of their lives. I thought that the easiest way to do that was to actually visit the place that I have chosen for them to live, which is a little village not too far from Hardwick Hall, called Shireoaks.
It is somewhere I always pass on the train to and from my daughter’s house and it looked like a nice place to live, with a canal as well! There is a beautiful church there, built by the Duke of Newcastle who built the chapel at Clumber that my daughter looked after in her last job for the National Trust.
On my last trip in England I visited and was able to talk to some of the local residents and see the street that I have chosen for my character to live in. They were very helpful, telling me about other sources for my research and I was delighted to find that an old photo showing the street as it was when first built.
These outhouses still exist, though the communal yards have been fenced off to make gardens.
I have also just finished another course with Future Learn about Mary Queen of Scots, as the embroidered piece I have chosen is one done while Bess was with Mary when she was under the guardianship of Bess’s husband. My current course with them is called Learning from the Past. It is a fascinating exploration of how to use historical sources for your research, so very, very useful for me.
I do so love studying, I always did really enjoy that part of my job and spent many years doing courses alongside my teaching and it is so amazing to have the time to do all this now. There are so many brilliant resources out there for free as well, I have only scratched the surface of all that there is available. I am very, very lucky to be able to do everything I have ever wanted to do, I am still pinching myself that this is my life!
It is getting a little cooler here, down the about 15 degrees during the day now, so it is nice to have more indoor things to do as well. It still seems strange to see sunny skies instead of autumn colours but it is lovely. I have cycled a total of 140 km in the last month so am very pleased with that and the cooler weather makes cycling really pleasant. As well as that there are weekly walks on the beach with brilliant views of the mountains.
I hope that you have all had a good week and are enjoying your weekend. Mum and I are off on a trip on Monday to the town of Caravaca for a medieval market. I visited in May for the wine horses fiesta but am very much looking forward to going back and seeing the castle and the cathedral so expect some bling in the next post! Until that have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.