The 5 Questions of Writing by guest author Lynne Hallett
Good friends are always precious. However, when you are an author, the job can be rather solitary by nature, therefore the importance of friendship is amplified. It is therefore a special treat to have my good friend and fellow Swanwicker, Lynne Hallett, visit the blog today to discuss her writing habits.
When I started writing
I’ve always written on and off since being very small. I suspect this sprang in part from the fact that I often finished my classwork before many of my peers and was told to ‘go and write a story.’ At the time, this meant regurgitating my favourite fairy tales almost verbatim. I can’t remember being especially imaginative when I was younger; indeed, for original stories, it was often my mum who came up with the ideas and then, inspired by these, I would go and craft something decent from them.
I became more serious about creative writing at the point where I had finished an MA by Research into the use of religious buildings in Jane Austen’s novels. As the critical and analytical side of my brains switched off, the imaginative side switched on. At this point, I was the mother of two boys, aged 4 and 1, and spent a lot of time reading to them. Favourite stories of theirs and mine were written by Julia Donaldson and Lynley Dodd, although I dipped into the works of many other authors.
One evening in August 2007, after putting them both to bed, I felt compelled to sit down and write a rhyming story of my own. By midnight, my first story was completed. My husband commented that I was like a woman possessed, and he wasn’t wrong. I had to get the words down on paper. During the next week or so, I wrote another couple of stories about Paddy the Pup and went on to submit the first into a competition.
The result of this was taking on a Children’s Writing Course, which helped boost my confidence and brought me some success – a second placing in an international competition and a nice sum of money. Buoyed up by this, I wondered whether or not I might be able to write for adults, too, and enrolled on the Writers’ Bureau Comprehensive Writing Course. This led within a short time to the acceptance of my first story by The People’s Friend. I loved this course as it allowed me to try my hand at numerous genres, the vast majority of which I liked. Recently, I finished their Copywriting Course, thinking that I might be able to use this in the future. So, if anyone out there wants to help me build my portfolio, do let me know; I will happily provide some written copy in exchange for a testimonial.
When I write
In terms of when I write on a day-to-day basis, I would love to say that I write all day, every day but, in truth, it very much depends on what is happening at school or at home. I am an English and Drama teacher, so there are hot spots during the year where, sadly, I simply don’t have space to write. January was one of those months and this piece for Val’s blog is the first thing I have written since Christmas and, oh, what fun it has been! The demands of family life can interfere with the creative process, too, though my husband and boys are very supportive of my need to write and are willing to listen and offer an opinion when I share my work with them. When the boys were little, we would do the ‘thumbometer’ test on my children’s stories; usually, I got a thumbs up! I have long holidays, so get some decent writing done then and when I have less time, I will try and pen a short story or an article in the couple of hours I have here or there. I invariably write any time from early morning to early evening. I am not an owl, so late-night composing is not for me.
Where and how I write
Usually, the creative process happens in the dining room, at the table or on our window seat, though I can write pretty much anywhere. In the summer I will use the conservatory and I have got a very nice, small round table which was an anniversary present and is just asking to be my writing table outside. I often write straight onto my laptop, although for creating anything in rhyme, be it a story or a poem, I am more likely to use paper; seeing the rhymes and being able to jot them down really helps. I am not a coffee or tea drinker, so don’t use this to help stir the creative juices, but a bit of chocolate never goes amiss. Time can fly when I’m immersed in my latest project and I do write quite quickly, resisting the temptation to edit much as I go along.
What I write and for whom
To date, the bulk of what I have written has been for children. I started with picture books because that was what I was immersed in and inspired by when I took writing up seriously. I absolutely adore rhyming stories – but they must scan properly – and of the nine books I have self-published, six are rhyming. One picture book is in prose (Who Cut Up the Moon?) and I have two 5000-word chapter-books for girls aged around 5-7 which are in prose, too. I have had a couple of articles published by AQUILA magazine, which is aimed at inquisitive children of around 8-11. I have had some success with The People’s Friend, who have published both short stories and, more recently, features I have written.
I have some decisions to make regarding the direction my writing will take in the coming months as, sadly, my dear friend and illustrator died before Christmas. She was 91 and drawing virtually to the end, something I would like to emulate where my writing is concerned. I had felt that perhaps it was time to move on from picture books, especially now my boys are nearly 16 and 13, but it seems the decision has been made for me. Over the last few years I have had a go at YA novels, too. I have two drafted, two more in progress and a plethora of ideas for more. I may even venture into contemporary or historical romance for women. Who knows?
Why I write
As with everyone reading this, I imagine, I write because it makes me happy. When I don’t write, after a while I feel sad. Writing releases my endorphins in a way exercise never could. My dream is to write full-time and to earn a decent living from it. I don’t much mind what I write but I can’t imagine a better way to live my life. I have been told many times that I have healing hands and while I don’t necessarily see myself going down the spiritual healing route, I would like to think that maybe I can heal through my writing. Can there be anything better than helping someone or simply providing enjoyment through one’s words? I don’t think so.
About the author
Married with two adolescent sons, I am surrounded by teenagers on a day-to-day basis as I teach English and Drama at Malvern College, a boarding school in Worcestershire. I always wanted to be an English teacher, so that is one dream which has come true. However, my dream has now changed and I want to write full-time, so I’m hoping that one comes true soon, too.
Malvern is a very healthy place to live and I have a lovely view of the hills from my dining room window. I have ventured up there occasionally, but hill walking is not really for me and I prefer Pilates to try and cure the aches and pains which come from sitting down too long at the computer. I also love reading (obviously), knitting, drawing and painting, singing – the kind of things which would have been done by ladies of wealth in times past.
To date, I have self-published nine books, aimed at children between 0-8. These are as follows: There’s a Mouse in the House; Alphabet Rhymes; Who Cut Up the Moon?; Hot Dog; Bear with a Sore Head; Why Do We Have Night-time? And Other Stories; Awesome Adventures; Lizzie Saves the Day; A Present for the Baby.
I have had the joy of being longlisted in the Plough Prize with a rhyming story which was ultimately incorporated into Awesome Adventures and I came second in the ACW competition with Who Cut Up the Moon? back in 2012. More recent successes include being placed third in the Writing Magazine Swanwick Short Story competition and being longlisted in another WM competition to write a children’s story. I was in the top 20 with There’s a Bear Behind You.
I have formed links with AQUILA magazine and especially The People’s Friend, who have published a handful of my short stories for women and three features. I am looking to continue submitting work here and to work on my half-finished YA novels, which will most likely happen when my eldest son’s GCSEs are over. I think that writing revision cards and essay plans may be the extent of what I get accomplished in the next 3-4 months!
You can find me at www.lynnehallett.co.uk and I have a Lynne Hallett Children’s Author Facebook page, too. I have yet to dive into Twitter, but it’s on the cards.
All my books are available via the website and from Amazon, where you will find them as Kindle versions, too.