10 Steps to Launch My Online School

My next novel – the second in the Ruby Sixpence series – is progressing slowly. Probably because I am spending all of my time creating courses for my online school. It is a steep learning curve and I am loving it. Lessons learned the hard way are often the most valuable. I am becoming an expert on how not to create online courses!

I have completed all the right steps, but not necessarily in the right order, so I have made life difficult for myself. I became overwhelmed by the sheer scale of what I had taken on and wasn’t quite prepared for it. I put the cart before the horse in some cases and had to go back and change things far too many times. It has been a bit like writing a novel without planning, whilst shifting genre and main characters at the mid-point. I have done a lot of research, and a new platform and technology had to be learned. I began to think that I would never get there. I signed up for every webinar I could find on the subject, I followed videos and signed up for newsletters. 

The first thing I had to do was to create an online school which I had already researched a couple of years back, and parked because it was too big a topic for me to consider at that time, but with perseverance …

I now have an online school HERE

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Why I Am Moving My Workshops Online

I am currently developing an on-line writing school and moving my ‘real life workshops’ onto the small screen.

So why am I doing this?  Not long ago I had no idea about the technology needed. I didn’t even know if the people I currently work with would want to go online for writing workshops. And most importantly, I believed that online learning was unresponsive to individual writers.

But then COVID happened. The world changed and we all embraced a different way of consuming art, entertainment and learning.

During lockdown I had a chance to learn the technology I would need to create an online school, and it became normal for many more people to access learning online. 

But that still leaves the question in my mind that online learning is not able to respond to the individual quite so well as a live session. 

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And Breathe …

This weekend, I am getting my breath back after a week of juggling priorities. As well as the day job – writing and managing a writing business – I have delivered around eighteen hours of creative writing workshops in seven schools.

I am really happy to be back in schools, despite the challenging circumstances. I realise how much I have missed the interaction and inspiration I get from working with children.

The children have been amazing and I always remind myself that although for us, 2020 is just one year out of however many decades we have lived, most of the children I work with are still in their first decade. This year is a far higher percentage of their lives than it is ours.

The children have adapted brilliantly to the new normal, and so have the schools. I paraphrase the words of one inspirational head teacher I have been working with;

‘The school is focussing on the emotional well-being of the children in our care, and whilst we are still delivering the curriculum, managing targets and supporting the children’s academic achievement, our priority is to keep our children safe, well and happy.’

primary school Head Teacher
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The Magic of a Blue Moon

There will be a full moon at Halloween this year, and every full moon at Halloween has to be a Blue Moon. 

Why? Because moon cycles are 29.5 days long and Halloween is always on October 31st. So, it has to be the second full moon of the month. 

Blue Moons happen every 30 months on average. So maybe the expression ‘Once in a Blue Moon’ isn’t so rare after all.

Full moons at Halloween are rare, however. They only happen every 18 or 19 years. Technically, the second full moon of the month is called a hunter’s blue moon, so here we have a full-blown hunter’s blue moon on Halloween.

These are the facts about tonight’s Halloween Full Moon.

The myths however, are far more powerful and a full moon is a potent tool in a writer’s armoury. It gives us emotional motivation and poetic licence. And for writers of romance, the full moon is also a universal symbol of love.

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Writing The Magic

Ruby Sixpence is a very ordinary woman. At least, to look at. But she has power and wisdom which the rest of us can only dream of. I think the underlying message is; don’t judge by appearances – people are surprising; and never underestimate the hidden power of older women!

I have great fun writing her and as the next book takes shape, I wanted to share with you some more ways in which she weaves her magic, unseen, unsung and without fanfare.

Ruby is a humble character. She dresses casually, and is treated with benign indifference because she hides behind homespun clichés and apologises a lot. It gets her the information she needs and makes her unthreatening. She also tells us that because she is an older woman, she gets ignored and patronised a lot of the time, which makes her feel invisible; but she uses that to find out what she needs to know because she can ask questions and no one takes offence or gets suspicious. 

I can also act surprisingly well, because acting is just lying convincingly, and I have always been able to lie. It has been a key survival technique in my unusual life, and I soon came to realise that the thin line between truth and lies is blurred into every shade of grey.

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Words are a powerful form of magic

I have been thinking a lot about Magic recently, probably because I am working with children and they believe in the magic of stories. By accessing their imagination, and what I call their story brains, they come up with stories which are bold, inspiring and joyful. It has refreshed my belief in storytelling; in the magic of stories, and the magic in stories.

Which brings me to my current work in progress. I am writing the second book in the Ruby Sixpence series.

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Writing the Story Bones

No, nothing to do with crime or horror and everything to do with Story Structure.

This is what I am focussing on in this week’s workshop programme in Primary Schools.

As Autumn arrives, I am back in schools delivering Creative Writing workshops to children aged 9 – 11. A huge thanks to schools who are making the New Normal work for the benefit of the children and their parents and so that the children can experience a rich, cultural project.

If a nation loses its storytellers, it loses its childhood

Peter Hanke

When I work with children, my intention is to spark their imagination and develop the innate creativity which we are all born with. I enjoy sharing my love of writing and the creative tools I use in my own practice as an author. The workshops are designed to give the children skills and techniques which will kickstart a love of creative writing, reading and telling stories. It is an opportunity to liberate us all from the strictures of the curriculum, and deal with ideas and creativity.

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Do You Use Real Locations in Your Fiction?

Here at Bookends, we recently did a Vodcast about asking questions.

Gerald Hornsby asked me random questions from my workbook: 100 Questions for Fiction Writers.
(Coming Soon)

One of them was; Do you use real locations or do you make them up? And it made me think of the use of location in our books. Are they real places or have we made them up?

In my case a bit of both. 

I usually take the seed of a real place and then change it to fit the story, as in
The Traveller and The Rose.

The fictional town of Santa Carmen is based on a small town on the Mediterranean coast of Spain. It is a place which I know well. It used to be a fishing village but has grown into a thriving town over the years. Santa Carmen features prominently in The Traveller and The Rose; it carries the hopes and dreams of the cast of characters and is central to the story.

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What is the most important question writers ask?

  • How many books have I sold this month?
  • Do I get an advance? 
  • Why is Amazon’s algorithm so complicated?
  • Can I eat this cream cake as research?
  • Is it ok to write someone I know into my book – and kill them?
  • You mean I have to re-write the whole thing?
  • Why is this so hard?
  • Where’s the wine?

It could be any or all of the above. But for me, the most important question a writer can ask is……

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Where do story ideas come from?

I am often asked; ‘Where do you get your story ideas from?’ and I usually reply, waving a hand around vaguely, ‘Oh, everywhere, anywhere. They just come to me….’

Which is easy to say, but not the whole story. So where do our ideas come from? In my Kickstart Your Writing workshops, I look at the three most common places we get ideas and inspiration.

  1. From inside ourselves: the things we know about
  2. From inside ourselves: the unconscious – the things we don’t know are there
  3. From outside ourselves: the word around us

So let’s explore….

Continue reading “Where do story ideas come from?”
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