Discover more from Notes From the Margin with Wendy Pratt
How Hannah Horvath Pulled Me Out of a Writing Slump
Plus book club news and the return of The Dawn Chorus, writing course news and a poll on the future of the book club.
I have been reliving my youth somewhat this last week. On Friday I cancelled all plans after being surprised by my husband with tickets to see rock band Pulp at Bridlington Spa. What joy, to open myself up to nostalgia and allow my brain to be massaged by throbbing, bone-felt music and glittering lights, the primal sensation of being in a packed room full of other people doing the same.
But oh, my feet. I was recently diagnosed with arthritis in my feet and hands, possibly linked to autoimmune issues as my family has such a strong history of CREST and Rheumatoid arthritis. I’m currently on a 45 week waiting list to see a consultant. (45 weeks, good grief) and stupidly, I thought I was still in my twenties, still capable of doing standing still and a bit of jumping about; still capable of a night in which I’m not in my PJs by 9pm and then in bed by 10pm. Foolish forty five year old that I am. I also forgot how short I am at just under 5 foot 5, and I managed to get stood behind the two tallest people in the room, possibly the world, and also a very sweaty man whose baldy head kept physically touching me as he gyrated with his girlfriend. The ick. I’d lived in Bridlington, years ago, in my late teens, with an entirely unsuitable man. It was not a happy time, but it was a time in which I began to grow. It was refreshing to visit the town and find the shadows of myself there, and to feel happy at where I am now.
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I’m heading into the last leg of writing the book, The Ghost Lake, now and feeling the pressure a little as I race towards a deadline. This too has been an experience of growth, and learning about myself as a writer and as a person - questioning my past, my own narrative and whether I am a narrator to trust with my own story. I got a bit burnt out after the physical stresses of the Pulp concert, and with a few other things’ and with the writing routine, which is quite intense right now. My anxiety is peaked a little lately and I don’t have much chance to do absolutely nothing, which is how I recover. In a few weeks I will take a short holiday in my house. It will be a holiday in which I lie on the sofa watching old films and old TV series and not thinking at all, about anything. I shall be absolutely still and have the patio doors open to feel the breeze on my skin as I lie motionless and woodland creatures will enter my space of solitude and make nests in my clothes as I recuperate from this part of my life. But until that point I have to take small, brain-dead breaks at lunch time and in the hour when I down tools for the day before picking up house duty tools of housework and cooking and animal care and marriage care. I do this by watching my ‘comfort’ TV programmes and films - stuff where I don’t need to concentrate too hard and can just enjoy the joy of them. On lunch breaks I have been catching up with Succession, which I absolutely loved. I have loved the script, the character development, the subtlety of vulnerability, the comedy of very rich people not having a clue about the real world, the dynamics of family, the way that childhood trauma replays and replays and replays in the Roy family. But alongside that I’ve also found the entire series box set of the TV show Girls and have been happily losing myself to it.
Over the last couple of years I’ve been questioning what sort of career I wanted as a writer. I’d had a couple of disappointments with one thing and another, and decided to settle for contentment and ‘making enough to do the thing I love, even if no one reads it’, sort of writer. This week, a new flare of motivation to do better hit me, to be better, to be the best I can be, to take my place at the table. This new firework of passion in my work comes from a perfect storm of seeing where I was, in Brid, sleeping on a mattress in a bare flat because the awful ex had taken all my furniture when he left, and I didn’t have the energy to face the fear of challenging him, to this - a forty five year old woman with a book deal, a woman with something to say to the world. But also, surprisingly, my new passion has come from Hannah Horvath, Lena Dunham’s slightly irritating, slightly privileged, slightly vulnerable character pushing for what she wanted, giving up well paid jobs because she wanted to write, taking opportunities that collapsed her world because she wanted to be a writer, wearing inappropriate clothing to every occasion and not giving a fuck about it. Yes. I missed out on that experience, as a younger person, I was busy working in factories and running away from myself, throwing myself at men and not realising I was a vulnerable young person, that the men saw that and used that. But I shall not miss out on these opportunities now. I have a voice and I want to use it.
Book Club News
Our Books from the Margin book club choice for June is Helen Mort’s wonderful novel Black Car Burning.
Longlisted for the Swansea University International Dylan Thomas prize 2020, Helen Mort's debut novel explores trust, identity and redemption. Here is a writer who knows how to write landscape. I was swallowed up by the way she weaves landscape into the story. The book is set in the Peak District and revolves around a group of climbers, their obsessions, their passions, their secrets and their backstories. Helen is a phenomenal, award winning poet and it's really interesting to see how a poet comes to the novel genre.
Our book club book chat is on the 25th June 10-11 am UK time, it’s pay what you can £1-£10. You can book your place here:
And I am delighted that Helen all be chatting to me at a live author event on 30th June 7-7.45pm UK time. This is also a pay what you can event £1-£10 and you can book your place here:
I’m thinking of making the Books from the Margin a separate newsletter, so people can subscribe (or unsubscribe) just for the Book club. I’d love your feedback on this. What do you think? Would it be better to separate the blog and the book club?
Following the Breadcrumbs
I had such a lovely time running the Religion of Water writing challenge in May. This, from Sarah, one of the participants:
‘The Religion of Water’ month of writing challenges with Wendy Pratt has been a joy. As a writer I have felt in safe and inspiring hands, with Wendy’s regular and reliable structure of stimulating prompts and exercises three times a week, plus a wonderful closed Facebook group where participants have shared their first drafts in a safe and supportive environment. Wendy is a true professional, a warm and encouraging host and coach, and I recommend her courses to anyone who needs a nourishing way out of the writing doldrums.’
My July writing challenge is now open for bookings. Come and join me for Following the Breadcrumbs! Details can be found here:
Next week the Dawn Chorus returns. Five days of early morning writing in a space facilitated by myself. Come and join me for a week of putting your writing first. For more details and to book your place:
Until next time