We’re continually inspired, impressed and moved by the amazing writing talent across the Tots100 community. Whether it’s the ability to make us laugh, cry or conjure up vivid images in our head, we’re never let down by the incredible range of writing styles on show across the UK parent blogging scene.
To celebrate this talent we’re starting a new series of Writing Masterclass posts on Tots100 throughout 2014, interviewing successful writers from all sorts of different genres, and asking them to set a monthly writing challenge for Tots100 members. This month we’re speaking to award winning blogger and published writer Tim Atkinson, who blogs at Bringing Up Charlie.
Read on to find out the writing challenge Tim has set us this month, and then link up your post to the linky at the bottom once it’s written. The linky will stay open for a month, before our next Writing Masterclass is launched with a new writer and challenge.
Q & A with Tim atkinson
Thank you for agreeing to be our first featured writer on the Tots100 Writing Masterclass! Let’s dive straight in – tell us how you came to be a writer.
By accident. And not once, but twice. First, when I was twelve and the proud owner of a scratch-built model railway I contacted a magazine and asked if they’d like me to write an article about it. Not only did they say ‘yes’ but they said they’d pay me too (more pocket money than I’d normally earn in a year)! From that moment, I was determined that writing was for me.
But it wasn’t until I gave up work as a schoolteacher to become a stay-at-home dad that a publisher (Hodder Wayland) got in touch and asked if I’d like to contribute a couple of titles to a series of school text books they were publishing. The rest, as they say, is history. Or it would be if I wasn’t still doing it. One novel, four non-fiction titles and an anthology later I think I can probably just about regard myself at last as a ‘writer’.
Have you always enjoyed writing?
It depends what I’m writing! At school I’d often create elaborate stories and could write like that for hours. I was less interested in writing to someone else’s plan – be it teacher, examiner or (latterly) editor!
How has your love of writing affected your day-to-day life?
Well, it’s sort of become my life, along with looking after the kids. In a way, I suppose, it’s always been there in the background (I wrote a diary for years) but it’s become the focus of almost everything I do these days, from blogging about the children and my efforts to look after them to writing books and articles about all manner of things. The only difference now is that other people read what I put down in writing. Sometimes (too rarely) they even pay me for the privilege!
Where do you find your inspiration?
Where don’t I find my inspiration? Honestly, just about anything and everything can lead to an idea for a blog post, a story, or a book proposal. Interviews (like this, but about my life as a stay-at-home dad) led to idea for ‘Fatherhood: The Essential Guide’. At the time I was being asked so many questions (by so many people) that I simply cut-and-pasted a lot of my answers into a book proposal. My first novel, Writing Therapy, grew out of the Creative Writing Diploma I was studying – it’s like a ‘how to write’ manual but written as a work of fiction. My latest novel is about World War One and was inspired by a chance conversation over supper with a friend whose grandfather had stayed in Belgium after the Armistice and helped clear the old battlefields, suffering secondary gassing from trapped pockets of chlorine and mustard gas as well as running the gauntlet of piles of unexploded ordnance.
What advice would you give someone who loves writing but lacks the confidence to share their work?
Start an anonymous writing blog and spread the word. Everyone needs feedback, but we’re all sensitive to criticism. By dipping your toe in the water like this you can toughen yourself up a bit and later, once you’ve got the confidence, start sharing your work face to face. Another great place to get advice is a site like Authonomy, which you can join (under an assumed name, if necessary) and then submit samples of your work for online feedback. But be prepared to hear some home truths! If you want your work to improve and you want to get better as a writer, there’s no avoiding it.
Similarly, what advice would you give prospective writers looking for a place to publish their work?
Sites like Authonomy (see above) have the advantage of being linked to several publishing imprints and some authors have found them to be a useful ‘way in’. The old model of writing a book, printing it out and hawking it for months or years around publishing houses or sending it to endless lists of literary agents is becoming more and more out dated. Self-publishing has increasingly become a platform from which new writers can get recognition and – in some cases – a mainstream publishing contract too. Things are changing and it’s an exciting time to be a writer!
Tim’s Writing Challenge
This month’s challenge is inspired by Tim’s book Writing: The Essential Guide (Need2Know 2011).
Tim is interested in the process of creating fiction out of real-life experience and the craft of story-telling. With that in mind, he’s challenged us to think of something (anything) that’s happened to you recently and craft it as an anecdote or story.
Tim’s tip: “Make the best of your material – decide what the ‘punch line’ is going to be and then determine the most entertaining and original way of getting there.”
Join our linky!
Once you’ve taken on Tim’s challenge don’t forget to link your Writing Masterclass blog post up to our linky so we can read it and share it with everyone else!