Discovery Day 2 at Foyles, London

Literary Agents, Curtis Brown and Conville & Walsh, sister companies, held their second Discovery Day for new writers on Saturday 16th November 2013. Foyles Bookshop, Charing Cross Road, hosted the event. Book pitching opportunities were followed by Q & A sessions in the cafe.

Jonny Geller, Clare Conville, Anna Davis, S. J. Watson (author of Before I Go To Sleep) and David Shelley (Little, Brown) formed a panel to discuss agenting, publishing and writing.

Panel responses to questions: INTERVIEWS AND REVIEWS section of THE BATH NOVEL AWARD

For more details go to #DiscoveryDay on Twitter. Such lovely people! Great day.

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Writers who based their writing on photos and art

Writers who based their writing on photos and art: Amy Tan

Amy_Tan.jpg by Robert Foothorap ©2007 (Public Domain)

Amy_Tan.jpg by Robert Foothorap ©2007 (Public Domain)

I came across this article about Amy Tan’s book The Valley of Amazement. Click on the link below and scroll down to the section The Story Behind The Story to see how a photograph sparked her desire to write the book.

​Yet I remained obsessed with the mystery 
of the photographs. I abandoned the book 
I had been working on...

Quote from Amy Tan on

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Visual Spark One

Visual Sparks

As we have been discussing the use of images to inspire ideas for your writing, I thought I would post a selection of Visual Sparks over the next few months from other sources. The WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge is a great place to look for inspiration. You can find the challenges here:


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Note to those who have commented on posts:

As I’ve been subjected to masses of spam in the last few months, I want to apologise if you left a genuine comment about a post and it’s been inadvertently deleted. I have introduced measures to combat spammers, so hope things will improve.

Thanks for taking the time to read the blog,


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Interpreting the Visual 2 – How to avoid the Predictable Part One

Blog title Interpreting copy - Copy

How to avoid the Predictable                            Part One

iStock_000010825659XSmall Woman runner

woman running © ryphotographer

In the last post we looked at three photos – all night shots. I deliberately chose images that didn’t give too much away in terms of story ideas, to give more room for imaginative play.  The challenge was to look beyond the obvious, to add the unusual into the mix. Today’s post looks at the first of the images again (see above) from the point of view of the occupation of the character.

Let’s develop the ideas in the image – woman running. Two  basic storylines could well be:

1. Running alone at night on a dirt track, she is attacked… and all that follows from that.

2. She is in training for a sports event, e.g. a marathon, and evening is the only excercise time available to her. It’s a sacrifice, but she’ll do it.

There’s nothing wrong with these scenarios, but…

Looking again at the image, begin to build a profile for the runner. In this post, we’re focussing on her occupation, so let’s list several possibilities: medic, lawyer, single parent, politician, teacher, chef, oil rig field engineer, helicopter pilot.

Let’s assign each of these occupations to the runner, in turn. What are the potential ideas for story that arise?

MEDIC – a) Runs to forget her greatest surgical error? b) Runs a circuit every night around a derelict site that,  due to an inheritance, she plans to develop as a health club? Her rivals are not happy. c) Trialling a new drug? (This holds great possibilities for delving into espionage, financial conflicts, ethical dilemmas, etc., as part of your plot.)

LAWYER – Finds that the route along which she excercises is: a) Making her ill (polluted)? b) Subsiding... and a children’s play area is close by? c) Full of strange tracks? Opportunities for investigation and issues relating to justice.

SINGLE PARENT – One night every week she is free to pursue her hobby, jogging. She meets a stranger. Chats to him. Feels safe. They start to meet every Tuesday evening, running, chatting, going for a drink. They plan to make more space for each other. He seems a genuine guy. She thinks her daughter will like him. They will discuss the details next Tuesday evening. He doesn’t turn up. She investigates.

POLITICIAN – She works for the Health Secretary and is putting on a show for the press. Basically, she would rather be a couch potato.

TEACHER – a) Finds kids sleeping out in the wilds? b) Teacher grooming a young girl? c) Her Head of Department organising a secret society for teenagers?

CHEF – a) She runs a reputable fish restaurant. Her excercise route winds along a cliff path. She stumbles across a major scheme to subvert EU catch restrictions? b) She provides fresh vegetables for her restaurant. Every night, she runs up to her garden plot to check on her plants. She makes coffee in her shed and designs her menus. She finds love among the allotments?

OIL RIG FIELD ENGINEER – The runner is the only female working on the drill floor. One man’s gender discrimination has escalated to intense bullying. She is ashore on leave. Loves the feel of her feet on firm, dry land.  Does she return and face him or decide to keep running?

HELICOPTER PILOT – She has been involved in a Search and Rescue mission to find a missing child, without success. Each night, after work, she continues to hunt for her in the area she was last seen.

(For some unusual occupations check out my Pinterest board ‘Occupations’ on

Hope this has given you some ideas. Let me know. In the next post we’ll look further at avoiding the predictable.


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Interpreting the Visual

Blog title Interpreting copy - Copy

In my last post, I wrote about my love of the visual—of photographs, art, illustrations and so on and how you can relate them to your writing. This post is a further encouragement to think visually and to develop that interpretive muscle that sees the story in the image. Thinking beyond the idea in the photographer’s or artist’s mind allows you to interpret it uniquely, although the former is a valid course of action.  Think of the ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ by Johannes Vermeer. Tracy Chevalier loved the painting and, intrigued by the mystery surrounding the life of Vermeer, teased out a story.

Take a look at the following  night shot.

 iStock_000010825659XSmall Woman runnerwoman running © ryphotographer

Fundamentally, this is a photo of a female runner. We only see the lower limbs but we can deduce several things: type of vicinity, time of day, active or sedentary lifestyle (muscle definition). It’s a straightforward image that could be used to illustrate various brands. For example: a clothing line, sports drink, muscle rub, etc. Or, it could be used as part of a promotional campaign for healthy living and safety awareness. It could also be the starting point for a basic storyline.

If we study the second  image, we note that gender is not so obvious, but we can make a guess.

iStock_000001324880XSmall 3 boys             Walking home silhouette © Gregorys (Three silhouetted people crossing the street at night caught in the headlights of a New York City taxi.)

The subtitle roots the scene in New York. Let’s move on from the basics. Are the three people together? If not, what might be the reason for the two following the one? Is the one at the front aware of them? (They may just be crossing at the same time but that wouldn’t make for great tension.) Why are they wearing that particular type of clothing? Why are they crossing nonchalantly in front of a taxi? Is it stationary, or speeding towards them? Look at the ground? Snow? Mud? Maybe the taxi will skid in a moment. What could happen then?  Why are they there at that time of night? What time of night is it? Think beyond the clichés. This photo leads to a bunch of questions that, given your imaginative answers, could create a dark or a comic story.

The next image (a trail of lights in downtown Los Angeles) could represent any city of your choosing.

iStock_000016055178XSmall City at nightTraffic through Los Angeles © rebelml

At first glance, it’s less informative than the other two images, but because of that it provides greater latitude for inventivness.

List the basics: car lights, street lights, skyscrapers and what looks like a bridge. Now, ask questions. What lies below the bridge? Train tracks? a river? a wooded path? a park? a cemetery? (A section of the famous cemetery of Montmartre, Paris, lies under a bridge.)

P.S. If you already know this area of Los Angeles, use imagination rather than reality, unless whatever is under this road makes for a great setting!

Place a character in the scene. Are they in a car? walking on the bridge? contemplating on the bridge? in a room looking down on the bridge? If we choose the latter, what do they see? A car pull up and a woman leap out? A car pull up and a person dragged in? A person on the bridge meeting someone at two a.m. and handing over a package? A person on the bridge jumping off/being pushed off/attacked/killed?

Add the unexpected. Do the police arrive minutes later and find no evidence of anything having happened? Is the person on the bridge singing/playing a cello/painting at night/dancing? Add more: The event happens every night at eight p.m. Food for thought.

In the next post, we’ll focus on avoiding the predictable. In anticipation, let’s look back at the first photo — the female runner. Add this into the mix: her occupation. It broadens the potential for an intriguing story. I’ll leave you to come up with some interesting ones. Please comment. I would love to hear your ideas.

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Review of ‘Tar-The Wandering’ by Martha’s Bookshelf

Quick update:

This is a link to a review by American audio-book reviewer Martha’s Bookshelf last year for my audio-book, Tar-The Wandering. Many thanks, Martha.

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‘Capturing the wonder’

iStock_000000162969Small Eagle Coast

(Eagle Coast: image copyright Spectral-Design via

Capturing the wonder

Pinning to the boards I’ve created on Pinterest has gripped me for the last few months. I love the fact that the visual can be a springboard for writing.

We approach photographic images and art work as individuals. Our life experiences, knowledge of art forms, cultural contexts and so on, create a complex web of reasons for our reactions. We may be inspired by a particular painting that thousands of others find stimulating, but ours is a special psychological and physiological conversation with that work. If you’re anything like me, your impulse is to respond not only with emotion but with words.

I have a secret board on Pinterest on which I pin images that relate to my works in progress. Each pin  has the potential  to be a powerful stimulus for generating a setting, a character, a mood and more. For example, if I’m working on the setting of a particular geographical location, I pin photos of that area to my board. I may not be able to visit these places in person (yet) but it allows me to engage with the colours and scenery, offering a flavour of the culture. I find them an incredible resource.

Capturing the wonder, in particular, seems to be a board that my fellow pinners re-pin from. I choose images that aim to foster that child-like sense of wonder about our world. These images need no additional words attached to them by me, apart from Wow!

Feel like writing? What mood does the image above, Eagle Coast, create in you?  Develop a short piece of fiction, taking note of the colours and the setting.

Capturing the wonder – Pinterest board on


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New: Visual Resource for Writers available on Pinterest – Narrative Spark


Over the last two months I have been developing a visual resource for writers.

The link is:

I will be writing much more about this in the months to come. I update the resource regularly, it’s free to use and you do not need to be a member to access the images.

If you are not familiar with Pinterest, it is a site that enables you to place (pin) photos, images, videos, tips and the like onto pin boards. Others can access your boards and repin items onto their own.

I have taken the images one step further. The main board, Story Starters*, allows you to generate ideas (Narrative Sparks) for your own storylines, using scraps of narrative, dialogue, or suggestions.

Other boards (apart from personal boards that reveal my own interests) represent a physical or emotional aspect of story, e.g. character, setting, costume. weather and so on.

Boards will be continue to be added.

The relevant boards are starred and labelled (Story), e.g. Story – Setting*.

Take a look. I will be suggesting ways to use them as I continue to develop the resource, both on Twitter, Facebook and here on my blog.




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The Lion who ate the Moon – a new story post by Helen Sea

The Lion who ate the Moon Title Bar copyThe Lion who ate the Moon

One night, the moon decided to challenge the sun.

“I‘m tired of being hidden away when you are shining. I’m going to stay right here in the morning and glow through the day. We’ll see who has the brightest light.”

The sun flared its nostrils. “You know who has the brightest light. I do.”

The moon shrugged its shoulders. “I am pure light.”

“It‘s only the light that I give you,” said the sun.

The moon screwed up its face. “Who told you that?”

“You reflect my light,” spurted the sun, fire sparking across the sky.

“You lie.”

“Then where does your light come from?” the sun asked.

“From within. I have inner beauty.”

The sun hid its face in the clouds and giggled.

The river below rippled with a creamy yellow glaze. “Look, there I am,” pointed the moon. “I don’t need you.”

“The sun tells the truth, you know,” something growled.

The moon gazed around. “Who’s there? Where are you?”

“I’m standing at the end of the bridge below you. My brother, Leon, stands guard on the other side of the path.”

“Lion, how would you know whether the sun is lying? You walk the earth. We live among the stars.”

“I stand here at the end of the bridge and watch you every day. I can’t move, but I can see you. It makes me wise.”

“Very wise in your own eyes. How old are you?”

“I am … younger than you.”

“You are just a cub compared to me.”

“A cub, am I?” the lion roared. “When you face the sun tomorrow, I will be hailed as the moon-tamer.”

“You can’t tame me. You roar in vain. You can’t eat me. You can’t bite me. You’re made of stone.” The moon shut its eyes and slept.


As the dawn tiptoed across the lip of the Lion Bridge, the moon woke and stretched. A small boy, leaning on a gate, stared up at it.

“Why are you looking at me?” the moon asked, but the boy didn’t answer.

“Mimi.” The boy tugged at his mother. “The lion – it‘s eating the moon.”

The moon gave a loud cough. “Excuse me, but….” Then it shivered, blinked and began to fade.

The lion’s mouth opened wider. The moon drifted towards it and disappeared from the boy’s sight. The lion swallowed hard and licked its cold fur.

“Don’t worry, Pietr, it will return,” Mimi said. “The lion is having fun. It knows that the moon can’t stay all day.” She walked on. Pietr ran to catch up with her.

“I will see you tomorrow night,” the lion called out to the hidden moon, with a smile on its face and a belly full of moonbeams.


The Lion who ate the Moon

This post is for adults to share with their children. It’s an original fable-style story by me, Helen Sea. Hope you enjoy it.

The Lion who ate the Moon
Photograph of ‘The Lion who ate the Moon’ Copyright © 2011 Helen Sea
‘The Lion who ate the Moon’  Copyright © 2013 Helen Sea    All rights reserved



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