Monday, 31 October 2016

North Country at Wild Woods, Bradford

Freedom Studios North Country at The Wild Woods is on now in their new theatre space in Bradford:

If your whole world was destroyed... what would you do?

North Country

Wednesday 26th Oct - Saturday 5th of Nov



The Wild Woods, Darley Street, BD1 3HL

Our exciting new production North Country opens this Wednesday at The Wild Woods, Bradford's brand new enchanted performance space. We are incredibly excited by this production and hope to see as many of you there as possible!
North Country is a play which takes you into an immersive post-apocalyptic experience. You will be sat down to watch the performance which lasts approximately 75 minutes. The post-apocalypse is cold, so wrap up warm! There will be some blankets provided however!
There are a few swear words in the play and it can get dark and scary at times. We recommend it for 12 years plus. Babes in arms and brave younger children are welcome!

Tickets from just £3!

Book Here>>>


It Began at The End...

Also Freedom Studios' participation team have been working with three youth groups, who have created a theatre/video installation in response to the themes of North Country.

We'd love to see you at their free event in Wild Woods on Saturday 29th October 2:30pm if you can make it.

Copyright © 2016 Freedom Studios, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
Freedom Studios
Bradford Design Exchange
34 Peckover Street
Bradford, West Yorkshire BD1 5BD
United Kingdom



Sunday, 30 October 2016

Sci-Fest: How to write Sci-Fi with Ken McLeod 27 October 2016

I attended this workshop with one of my fellow CWG members Neil on Thursday.  The workshop was a collaboration between Kirklees Libraries and Museums and the University of Huddersfield. 

Ken McLeod is a sci-fi novelist from Scotland whose novels look at how we negotiate living together with difference and Ken started his talk by asking the audience if they really wanted to be a sci-fi novelist because you have to love sci-fi and read quite a lot of it.  He suggests accessing current sci-fi via a library/bookshop/charity shop to see what is hot at the minute or Penguin Science Fiction Omnibus, as it is a great introduction to the golden age of sci-fi.

He feels the beginning of your novel is important as you only have a couple of pages to grab the readers' attention, so if you can grab it in the first sentence, even better.  Some novels are more about the world/idea/possibility than the character.  But the character viewpoint should be like a video game in a first person shooter, e.g. War of the Worlds narrator.  There is still a statue of the Martian in Woking even today.  Sometimes characters are important, as the story turns on their actions and it is essential to surprise the reader.  Observe people to get this, but he puts character ticks of real people and mixes and matches for a character, e.g. tick, appearance, speech etc.  He gave an example that there is a passage in The Wasp Factory which is appalling and disgusting, but it was told to him and the writer of the book as truth by a nurse they knew in real life, so plunder your own experience when writing.

His second novel (18 months to do as a 2 book contract) was a 2040s character of a man in his 80s, but as he was born in the 1950s, grew up in the 70s/80s, he could plunder his own diaries as he and the character would be the same age.  He suggested keeping a diary to help with this.  As you get older, he feels you get less and less ideas, but more time to write, so keep the odd line etc. and use it later.

Plot = outcomes and resolution
Outline = how you intend to tell the story

He used to be an IT programmer and his fellow ex-IT writing friend liken writing to programming in that you look at page and page of blank screens, get the specifics and then follow it.  His writer friend feels it is easy to write like that, he often interrupts one story to write another as he gets the idea and then goes back to finish the other. 

There is a useful ebook he recommends by M Harold Page, Storyteller Tools available for around £2 on Amazon.  M Harold Page writes swords and sorcery fantasy and the book tells you how to write a story from an idea.

He suggests you start small with your plot, and then complicate it, build up with twists and turns, battles and the big reveal at the end - not forgetting the aftermath and the rumble of another conflict coming in the future, e.g. Empire of the Sun.  Sci-fi and fantasy is specific, so research world building, communicating information and the story.

Research - the R word - as it matters that you get the science right.  All stories are a response to another story, e.g. time travel (HG Wells) led to time machines, then trying to change the past, then time paradoxes.  Read sci-fi and get used to the protocols of SF, get used to picking up clues as to what's important and what's not.  Between speculation and hard fact (e.g. HG Wells thought Mars had canals but we now know different, so it would have to be an ironic story now).  Look up basic/kids stuff to check anything you are not sure about and then work your way up.  Read key prints - Neal Stephenson, Greg Egan and Stephen Baxter, current magazines like New Scientist, Scientific American or Nature, £5 a week to keep up with current affairs and good background reading, old blue penguin books are a good introduction, as are Oxford very short productions for information on planets which you can also get from the library or on-line.  SF writer William Gibson said he used his wife's fashion magazines as there was lots of good stuff there (that were in vogue but not worn) - clever observational.  Read more than you need on science - history is the trade secret of science fiction (could have been Isaac Asimov that said this).

In terms of fantasy, you have to like reading it too but go to the source, like European history, religion, folklore, magic, alchemy, witchcraft etc. e.g. penguin atlas of world history and draw a map (Tolkien started this) as mentioned on the BBC4 programme the previous evening.  The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones tells you which clich├ęs you want to avoid, such as in an Inn there is stew and ale, fat muscly barman or buxom barmaid.  Real history used well is also a good device, e.g. George R R Martin and for landscapes, organisms etc. National Geographic is good. 

When you share details and aspects of your world it was common to stop the story dead while you or your character explained it, now 'incluing' is used.  The is a term invented by Jo Walton (see and her book 'What makes this book so great' is an essay on cluing in the reader unobtrusively about the characters' real world that the character would know about but the reader couldn't.  Need to avoid things like 'straining your eyes through the blue screen views' as metaphors get literalised e.g. eyes getting misplaced, use gaze or look.

There are 2 sci-fi magazines in UK, Enterzone (he sent 3 short stories in the 80s) and Shoreline of Infinity in Scotland.  Online there is clarkesworld, SF Horizons etc.

When you submit, get it right the first time.  Writers and Artists Yearbook, then website and look for SF editor name, submit to them or an SF agent.  He recommends not self-publishing unless that is all you're hooping for, as he thinks it is high risk and can ruin a published career.  Include a brief covering letter.

On a hopeful note, of the 10k writers that have an idea, 100 start it,  10th finish and 90% of these can't write for toffee, so we are already in the top 10%, so that just leaves how interesting and well told your story is.  So keep trying.

Ken then opened it up to questions which resulted in the following information:

Make it clear in your writing that it is a possible future, not a probable future.  You can also make it an alternative future or past, and you may well live into the future you are writing about, so don't put in any dates, e.g. The Night Sessions.  Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars novels has a red, green and blue Mars that have a revolutionary movement as a hero, first 100 settlers revolt - political sci-fi.

Don't worry if it is a well-worn idea, e.g. alien invasion, as so long as there is a new take on it, it will be original as only you could write it.

Conflicted characters and alternate history, recommended Adam Roberts for conflicted characters, Justina Robson 'Quantum Gravity' series and Tricia Sullivan 'Occupy Me.' 

To wrap up the session, Ken then read from the first page of The Cassini Division.

#SFY16  #KenMacLeod  #Sci-f-  #SFiction

Saturday, 29 October 2016

English PEN events 28 October and 18 November 2016

Upcoming events at English PEN include Satire on the Front Line and a vigil for Saudi Arabia's imprisoned writers, details below:

Book your tickets now

Upcoming events from English PEN

  • Satire on the Front Line with Aseem Trivedi and Martin Rowson
  • Join our monthly vigil for imprisoned writers in Saudi Arabia

18 November: Satire on the Front Line

Martin RowsonJoin cartoonists Aseem Trivedi and Martin Rowson for an illustrated talk on human rights and political cartooning.
Indian human rights defender Aseem Trivedi has been arrested, imprisoned and shut out of mainstream Indian media for his powerful ‘Cartoons Against Corruption’ series. When Aseem was imprisoned in 2012, the Guardian’s celebrated political cartoonist Martin Rowson drew a cartoon condemning his arrest. Today, Aseem is a renowned advocate for detained human rights defenders around the world. He has drawn cartoons in solidarity with activists including imprisoned activist Nabeel Rajab in Bahrain and blogger Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia. Aseem will join Martin in London to discuss, draw and debate freedom of expression and solidarity across borders.

28 October: Vigil for Saudi Arabia’s imprisoned writers

English PEN is continuing to hold monthly vigils in support of imprisoned writers Raif Badawi, Waleed Abulkhair and Ashraf Fayadh. Please join us to show them they have not been forgotten.
English PEN has been holding regular vigils outside the Saudi Embassy in London in support of imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi and his lawyer Waleed Abulkhair since January 2015 when Badawi was first flogged for his peaceful activism. 
While Badawi has not been flogged since, he is continuing to serve a ten-year prison sentence, while Abulkhair is serving 15 years in prison for his human rights activism. Furthermore, recent reports suggest that a second round of 50 lashes could be inflicted on him at any time.
PEN is also continuing to call for the immediate release of Palestinian poet and artist Ashraf Fayadh. Originally sentenced to death, Fayadh is now serving 8 years in prison and, like Badawi, continues to have the threat of hundreds of lashes looming over him. 
This month we will also be joined by UK representatives of Reporters Without Borders, for whom Raif Badawi is a key case of concern.
Please join us on Friday 28 October from 9 – 10am for a peaceful vigil at the Saudi Arabian Embassy in London. Activists are asked to meet at the Curzon Street entrance to the Embassy. (note: the postal address of the Embassy is 30-32 Charles Street, Mayfair, London).
Copyright © 2016 English PEN, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
English PEN
Free Word Centre
60 Farringdon Road
London, Eng EC1R 3GA
United Kingdom


Friday, 28 October 2016

New Writing North Northern Writers' Awards

Having submitted to the Penguin Random House UK mentoring programme today with my current WIP, I thought I would share details of the New Writing North Northern Writers' Awards FREE Writers Roadshows which are coming up.  I have already booked for the Leeds one, so I thought I would share the information with my followers so that you can book too:

      October 2016
Northern Writers' Awards
Writers roadshows across the North of England
It’s that time of year again: the Northern Writers’ Awards opens for entry on Wednesday 23 November, and to spread the word we’re travelling around the North, meeting writers and talking to them about the awards and the many other opportunities available to develop their careers.

This year our Northern Writers’ Awards roadshows are visiting Sheffield, Leeds, Preston and Middlesbrough. Each roadshow is aimed at writing in a particular genre and will feature experienced writers, editors and publishers/broadcasters.

The roadshows are free to attend and will equip you with practical knowledge for developing your writing career, whether or not you are planning to enter this year’s Northern Writers’ Awards.
These events are also an excellent place to meet and network with fellow writers. The feedback from our roadshows is always overwhelmingly positive and places tend to book up quickly.

Reserve your place now via the links below.

We’ll also be at the National Creative Writing Graduate Fair on Friday 4 November, taking part in a panel about the future of publishing and hosting a Northern Writers’ Awards stall. Come and see us!

The Northern Writers' Awards 2017 open for entry on 23 November 2016 until 2 February 2017. The awards identify writing talent and support writers to complete work-in-progress towards publication or broadcast. They are open to writers at all stages of their careers, based in the North of England, and awards can include mentoring, development opportunities and cash awards. Find out more at

Saturday 19 November, 11am-3.30pm, Sheffield
Hosted by New Writing North in partnership with the Poetry Business
Saturday 26 November, 11am-3pm, Leeds
Hosted by New Writing North
Saturday 3 December, 11am-3.30pm, Preston
Hosted by New Writing North and Channel 4 in partnership with They Eat Culture
Thursday 15 December, 6pm-8.30pm, Middlesbrough
Hosted by New Writing North in partnership with Writers Block North East
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© New Writing North 2016