A Writer’s Love Affair with Her Notebooks

Writers have a deeply personal relationship with their notebooks. To them, notebooks are as valuable as their right arms. When an idea flares, they capture it in their notebooks before it takes flight. Many a great book has sprung from a humble notebook.

Notebooks aren’t just idea stores for writers. They’re things of beauty in themselves. Writers take great care in choosing their notebooks. Surely ideas will flow faster when you’re writing them in a notebook with an elegant cover and highly sniffable paper.Notebooks play many roles in a writer’s life. Let me give you a few examples from my own.

There’s the spiritual notebook, which encourages thoughts to bubble up from your subconscious.

Spiritual Notebook









The functional notebook that gives you the space to conceptualise professional projects.

Functional Notebook









The funky notebook that cheerfully invites you to enter your drafts into it.

Funky Notebook








And the little notebook for writing on the go.

Little Notebook






What’s your big notebook love? Feel free to share pics and/or thoughts in tribute to your paper ally.

High Speed Storytelling

I’m looking forward to a week packed with writing activities and opportunities to meet my fellow writers. There’s the social media panel, a radio panel on Saturday with fellow writers Orla Shanaghy and Mary Grehan. But first, I’m giving a free two hour workshop as part of Waterford Festival of Learning, to give people a taste of the joys of creative writing. That’s tomorrow, Wednesday 20th, at 11am in the historical Edmund Rice Heritage Centre in Waterford City.

Waterford Festival of Learning






When people leave this workshop two hours later, they will leave with a piece of writing, freshly minted from their imaginations. It’s important to give people a sense that they’ve achieved something. Even in such a short space of of time, people can produce strikingly original writing. It doesn’t matter if it’s raw around the edges or unfinished, the important thing is that it contains the gem of a genius idea that people can develop further if they wish.

We’ll start with a few warm-up games, including 20 Questions, where people write a description of a famous person and the others have to guess who it is. People love this game. They start looking over each other’s shoulders to see what famous people they’ve picked.

Getting Down to Business

Then they’ll do a few exercises to help them gather ingredients for their stories. They’ll play God and create characters, travel to strange lands and be journalists, reporting on exciting events. They’ll use the characters, settings and plots they create in the exercise as the basis for their story.

Now it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty, as the budding writers combine the ingredients and start writing their story. They don’t have to use any of the information they’ve gathered so far if they don’t want. They just need to make sure their story has a beginning, a middle and an end.

End of Story

Hopefully, the writers will still be in full flow when the session comes to an end at 1pm, but if there’s time at the end, they’ll have the chance to share their stories with the group and bask in warm applause and praise.

Anyone in the Waterford area who wants to come can just turn up at 11am tomorrow. It’s totally free. Otherwise, you can ring Waterford VEC on 051 870047

How to Make Social Media Work for Writers

I’ve had an exciting offer – to chair a panel discussion called Making Social Media Work for You, as part of Waterford Writer’s Weekend. If you’re in the Waterford area, it’s on Friday 22nd Marchl at 1pm in Greyfriars Gallery, Waterford City. It’s worth mentioning that people in any field of the arts, or who have a small arts-based business, are also welcome to attend.

Social Media Image

My co-panellists are all writers who’ve cut a swathe in the world of social media. Catherine Ryan Howard has built an impressive social media profile to promote her self-published books. Twitter inspired singer-songwriter Derek Flynn (@derekfo3) to launch two albums. Orla Shanaghy showcases her writing through her blog, Wait Till I Tell You. And then there’s moi, who used Facebook and this blog to flog copies of my book, The Pink Cage.

Value of Social Media

We don’t want this panel discussion to be a talking shop. We want to spread the word that social media is a valuable tool for writers. It helps them to get in touch with the audience, generate publicity for their books and most importantly of all, sell them. No wonder so many writers are finding a home on social media.

We’ll start off by sharing our own experiences on social media and the lessons we’ve learned. Then we’ll talk about the role of social media, how to use it to gain an audience, make connections and conduct valuable research.

Using Social Media

Social media feeds on top-quality content, so as a writer, you’re at an advantage. Social media gives you the chance to showcase your writing style. We’ll talk about what to post, so you’ll create content that engages your followers and converts them to your writing style.

Writers can be wary of social media, which is understandable. There are issues of privacy and copyright and it can be quite the time-suck. We’ll talk about how to overcome those pitfalls and make sure you get the maximum benefit from social media.

We’ll make sure that the audience is involved throughout the discussion. That way, they’ll be more likely to learn from the experience. We’ll be feeding off what they tell us, so the discussion could go in any direction. But we’ll make sure we don’t stray far from the central point; how to use social media effectively.

We’ll round off the discussion with each of the panellists giving a top tip for using social media that you’ll be able to put into practise straight away. If you want to come, you can book on the Waterford Writer’s Weekend website;

The Story of My Life

So here’s the story. I skied down a mountain. I turned one way. At the same time, another skier turned another way. We crashed into each other. And I broke my leg. So far, so commonplace. Similar injuries happen to 80 people each day in the area where I was skiing.

Skiing Trip 2009 041






Of course, being a writer, the first thing my family and friends said was, “That’ll make a great story.” But let’s face it, a lot of the things that happen to us are only of interest to us. It’s the big challenge of writing if you’re the sort of writer who draws inspiration from their own life. How do you make that life interesting to other people?

High Drama

I could go for the full on ER treatment, creating a story pulsing with the tension and drama of a medical emergency. I even have a narrative arc: the crash, the break, the ambulance ride, the x-rays, the operation, the rush to get home. I could lay on the heavy drama, with lots of twists and turns. Will the operation be as drastic as they claim? Will I be allowed to go home? If I took that approach, I’d go the fictional route, maybe thrown in a heart throb doctor to get the pulses racing.

Creating an Atmosphere

I could also take the atmospheric approach, drawing heavily on the five senses. The taste of an orange two days after an operation. The slithering sensation of the drain being removed. The dots that appeared in front of my eyes as the anaesthetic took hold. The sound of Anne of Green Gables soothing me to sleep. The sight of one of my old ski guides, appearing as a white vision above my bed as I was wheeled to x-ray.

Make Em Laugh

Humour is also a good route to take. Yes, I know what I said last week about humour in stories, but it does work really well in a personal essay. So I could talk about my Oompa Loompa leg, so called because of the orange surgical fluid they swabbed it with. Or my efforts to do rock and roll dances on my crutches. Or quips about how my hair would be grey by the time I reached the table to order my dinner. Though humour’s subjective, so I’d have to be careful.

Looks like I’ve plenty of options before me. That’s the privilege of the writer’s life. That ability to find the extraordinary within the ordinary and bring the world to life for readers.