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Just People

I was asked a very good question this week - who do I most like to teach?

Young or old, writers who've already tried to put together a novel, or those just starting out? Schoolchildren, interested in journalism, or college students? Etc...

It didn't take much thinking to come up with an answer. 

I've been criticised a few times for teaching at private schools. And I tend to come up with a robust response. 

Ok, we adults might sit around for hours having an intellectual debate about the pros and cons of private education. But that overlooks an important point - 

The kids didn't choose to be where they are. They're just children, whether at a state school or private. They're just trying to learn and find their way in the world. 

And as to whether I prefer teaching older or younger writers - 

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Few Words, Big Feelings

My editor set me a challenge with the final tweaks of my young adults' novel. 

Go through every scene she said, and see if you can add one more element of emotional depth. 

It's one of those wonderful things that sounds simple, but is very much not. 

I've spent the last two weeks working on it, am almost done, and have come to a conclusion.

This last part of the editing process (hopefully!) has the most remarkable ratio of all the production of a book -

It's about five minutes of thought for each five seconds of actual writing. 

Everything else is in place; the plot, the settings, the voice, the structure, all that stuff. 

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The Two Faces of a Writer

I was asked a question this week which made me think for days about the nature of a writer. 

I was teaching media careers at Queen Elizabeth's Academy in Crediton, mid Devon - 

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(The Car Windscreen Question refers to the faces you see in a traffic queue in the morning - how many of them actually enjoy their jobs? Which is why a good career is such a wonderful gift.)

It was a great session, with some really informed and fun students, which was reflected in the questions I was asked at the end. 

The one which really struck me was - are you an extrovert or introvert? 

I'd been talking about the need to think hard about what you say and write, to make sure it's insightful, true and fair. But also the need to reach out and communicate it, with energy and passion. 

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The Highwire

What is writing for if not to journey through the feelings of life? But that can be so darned tough. 

I lived a moment of pure joy this week. You know I'm more than fond of the gang of daft geese who live on the River Exe? Well...

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I didn't think we were going to have goslings this season. It was getting too late in the summer. And then I walk around a bend in the river and... oh, wow!

I must have taken several hundred photos and just sat there, on the riverbank, watching them for ages. 

The day passed like a sunshine balloon flight. 

I worried about them, of course. They're so vulnerable, and life on the river is tough. But come the next morning, they were all still there. 

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Spaces Between the Words

It's not just what you write or say that makes the impact - it's the spaces between the words. 

I enjoyed an excellent evening this week, talking about my books and TV work at St Thomas Library in Exeter. 

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This is me reading from my fifth novel, The Balance of Guilt.

And I was reminded of that very lesson, of the importance of spaces, as I spoke. 

I've been to quite a few events when an author has talked perfectly well, with interesting insights and anecdotes. 

But... 

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