Stay Home – A Year of Writing Through Lockdown is the first book published by the Community Interest Company myself and author Sim Alec Sansford run, Chasing Driftwood Writing Group. The book has been published under Chasing Driftwood Books and we hope there will be many more to come. In fact, we will be annoucning a brand new community writing project very soon!
So, what is Stay Home about and why did we put it together?
At the start of the Covid 19 pandemic, I turned almost daily to my blog to write about my fears and experiences as a nationwide lockdown saw the closing of schools, colleges and workplaces. The majority of us stayed home. We watched the world from our windows, took our daily walks, and turned to music, books and streaming services to entertain us. We also turned to gardening, pets and chicken-keeping! For a short while, our lives stopped and a new reality took over. As my blog posts and ponderings piled up, I decided to open up my blog to guests who might want to share their thoughts, feelings and experiences of life under lockdown. I had in mind at this point that putting together an anthology to publish under Chasing Driftwood would be a good plan. So, we opened it up to even more people, including the adults and children who attend our writing clubs and workshops.
We were overwhelmed by the wonderful submissions of personal essays, stories and poetry and we soon had a decent sized anthology on our hands.
It’s been a great learning experience for myself and Sim. Of course, as self-published authors ourselves we understand the process of compiling a manuscript, formatting, editing, proofreading, choosing a front cover and uploading to Amazon, but there were still new things to learn along the way. We would like to publish more anthologies in the future written by the people we work with, so Stay Home was a fantastic opportunity to learn from.
It has been published under Chasing Driftwood Books and is available now in ebook and paperback from Amazon. All the money from book sales will go back into the CIC to help fund our next community writing project. If you re interested in reading the book and supporting emerging writers and our next project, then here is the link to check it out.
Author MJ Mallon has put together a collaborative collection of writing, poetry and musings on the subject of the Covid 19 lockdown. One of the features in the book is ‘isolation writers’, where writers recorded their personal experiences of being a writer during a pandemic. I was lucky enough to have a piece I wrote included in this collection, so I wanted to help spread the word about This Is Lockdown and MJ Mallon kindly agreed to the following interview. Find out what inspired her to put this together, how easy and hard it was to pull off and what is happening with her own writing.
1. Tell us about This Is Lockdown – what can we expect to read if we purchase this collection? I collated This Is Lockdown in two parts. The first section comprises my personal diaries, photography and poems It features the ‘isolation writers,‘ who share their pieces on isolation during COVID19, their poetry and writings. The second half focuses on my YA short story: The Poet’s Club, and a more mature love affair, plus various pieces of flash fiction inspired by news reports and social media during this time. This Is Lockdown is an authentic account of the difficulties and sadness of this time but there are also tales to lift the spirits, wonderful community initiatives such as Masks4NHS, (who contributed a piece documenting their fund-raising success.)
2. What made you decide to put this collection together?
This collection started off as a series of features on my blog. I posed this question: How do writers, creatives, artists and bookish souls cope with isolation? Is their capacity to cope different from the rest of the population? It’s an interesting question and one that fascinates me.
The popularity of this series of blog posts gave me the idea to put this collection together.
3. How did you approach authors/bloggers and what sort of response did you have?
I approached authors and bloggers via social media, specifically my Facebook group: Authors/Bloggers Rainbow Support Club and Book Connectors. The response was overwhelmingly positive. I saw it as a wonderful opportunity to connect with the writing community in a mutually helpful way during this time.
It gave me focus and drive to do something worthwhile whilst on furlough from work. I suddenly found myself with nothing else to do apart from housework, gardening, or the dreaded de-cluttering!
4. What sort of audience do you think will enjoy this book?
Ah, that’s an interesting question. Everyone. I hope. Firstly, I think it will appeal to writers, bloggers and creatives. Also, it will interest all of us – our experiences of the impact of coronavirus are similar wherever we live in the world.
5. What has been the easiest and what has been the hardest aspect of putting this together?
For me, the easiest part is writing! The hardest part is the formatting (especially as there are so many photographs in the collection.) I had to do a fair amount of rearranging, deciding on fonts, format, and headers. I’d say that it was the most difficult formatting job I’ve attempted to date.
There are many author photos, images I’d taken on walks, or in my garden, a photo of my daughter, two contributed photos of cats, food, etc. I changed the dpi (dots per inch,) of each photograph to ensure that it would be a high resolution for publishing.
6.What has your own experience of lockdown been, in terms of your writing?
Difficult. At the moment, I struggle to write in my normal style: YA Fantasy/magical realism. So, instead, I created realistic fiction
7. Tell us about your own writing and publishing journey so far
I started my blog Kyrosmagica – crystal magic – six years ago. Via my blogging journey I’ve joined in flash fiction, short story writing, poetry, and photography challenges. I’ve virtually met bloggers and writers who I now call friends, and I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting many of them in person at the Annual Bloggers Bash in London, which sadly didn’t happen this year due to circumstances not related to COVID19.
My debut novel, a YA fantasy set in Cambridge, is inspired by two amazing sculptural modern artworks: the Corpus Christi Chronophage clock invented by Dr. John C. Taylor, OBE, and the beautiful crystal grotto in Juniper Artland in Scotland, designed by Anya Gallaccio. These two creations give the book its raison d’être – its light and darkness.
The Curse of Time #1 Bloodstone is a coming of age story about a young girl, Amelina Scott. She lives in a weird family dynamic, with her much loved black cat, Shadow, Esme, a girl stuck in a mirror and her parents Mark and Eleanor who look like they’ve walked out of a horror wax museum. Ryder is delicious to look at but has a shadowy aura that excites and frightens her.
There are snippets of poems introducing each of the chapters and many themes interwoven in the book: music, magic, art, mental health/self harm, deception, and hypnotism. .
I’ve also contributed to these short story anthologies:Goodreads: Nightmareland, a bestselling horror anthology compiled and edited by Dan Alatorre, and the Ghostly Writer’s group organised by Claire Plaisted.
8. What was your latest release and who would enjoy it?
My latest release, Mr. Sagittarius is different too! It’s a collection of poetry, prose and photography inspired by the beauty of nature. It explores many themes: sibling relationships, love, the circle of life, myths and magic. It was recently featured under the heading Inspiration at Literary Lightbox.Here is the link: https://lightboxoriginals.com/lollipop-leaves/
9. What is your normal writing process?
I often awaken with ideas in the morning and rush to type them on my laptop! I don’t plot, I tend to write everything down and then add the detail, or rearrange. This helps to create imaginative and unusual effects!
10. What can we expect from you next?
First on the agenda is to finish the second in the Curse of Time series. I hope to publish the second book in this three-part series in the Autumn/Winter of 2020. I also have several other projects in mind… a poetry, photography book entitled Do What You Love, and a MG story about a dragon and a girl.
11. What advice would you have for any aspiring writers out there?Write, read, and repeat! Live, Laugh, cry. Experience the world through your eyes, ears and soul. Believe, and you will get there. Work at it and don’t let anyone crush your dreams.
12. What advice would you have for anyone thinking about putting together a collaborative collection such as This Is Lockdown?
It is my first attempt at a collaborative collection. My advice? Contribute to several anthologies before you attempt one yourself. This helps to give you an idea of the process and what you will need to do. There is a considerable amount of work involved, so make sure you have the time to devote to it. You will need to be organised. I use Canva to create content to share on my blog, and I manage my blog tour with featured posts by bloggers and authors I know in the writing community. It is important to ensure your cover and graphics are enticing. You can outsource blog tours, covers, formatting but it will be costly if you do. Keep costs down by creating your own ebook cover, making connections and using Kindle Create.
The wonderful contributing authors and creatives are many in number!
Thank you so much to MJ Mallon for agreeing to this interview. If you would like to find out more about her and her work, the relevant links are just below!
My favourite genres to write are: YA fantasy, magical realism, and various forms of poetry. I blog about books, writing, photography and inspiration at: https://mjmallon.com
I enjoy writing articles celebrating the spiritual realm, my love of nature and all things magical, mystical, and mysterious. One of my greatest pleasures is reading. I’ve written over 150 reviews at my lovely blog home: https://mjmallon.com/2015/09/28/a-z-of-my-book-reviews/
I’m a member of a professional writing body. SCBWI, the Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators.