>In 9 days time I go to Ullswater for my writers’ retreat. I’m really looking forward to it but am starting to panic on what to pack. I don’t mean whether to take a tankini or a cossie or how much sun cream (although I am taking a bottle of Factor 50 and a bottle of After Sun) or how many pairs of sandals. I mean which of my extensive library should I take?

This is going to be my biggest wrench as my reference library, including writing books, is huge. There’s a comfortable feeling about knowing there’s a book on something just a few seconds away, but I also need to decide what I’ll be working on while there.

Voices from the Dearne Valley
I have a real bad feeling about the Voices book. It’s been jinxed for 5 years, ever since it was just plain old Barnsley Voices. I have tons of words, but when I recently found 2 more interviewees one of them sadly passed away and the other was hospitalised and no longer felt up to telling a complete stranger her life story. Of the 35,000 – 40,000 words I need, I probably have 70,000 – 80,000 to be going along with … I just needed a bit more variety in the interviewees. This book does not want to be written.

I need 80 – 100 pictures, and while I can take some myself, of those 80 – 100 pictures around 80 of them need to be old ones. And I have none. Zero. Nada. None. I had plenty, but they got wiped from my hard drive when my hard drive got wiped. I still have access to about a couple of dozen, but any more I keep getting asked to pay for, and without an advance I can’t afford to do that. I went along to the local history groups a few weeks ago as a last ditch attempt, and there they were gone. This book does not want to be written.

On top of this, this project has been like a millstone around my neck and I still believe it blocks me quite badly on occasion. The Voices book may not have much longer in this world … It’s a big decision, but one that needs to be made. This book does not want to be written.

Night Crawler
This one is at final galley stage and I need to get the galleys proofed, the artwork scanned, and the book published. This is an easy one.

Catch the Rainbow
Another easy one. This is at first draft stage and I keep getting the urge to write a bit more (must update the word meter soon), I just don’t often get time to do it.

New work
I’m going to be in one of England’s most beautiful spots that is also steeped in history. I should be able to get at least one article and one short story out of it.

I have a new non-fiction on the boil too, but this one I know who my subjects are and I know there are lots of photographs. What I want to do is get a proposal out for this one to an advance-paying publisher. I keep saying it but I can’t afford to work for free.

Writing books to take?
So, which writing books do I take?

I’m definitely taking Devon’s 5 Stories in 10 Weeks as I can do that one anywhere and already have loads of material from “week 1”. Everything is in a folder, nice and tidy and ready to go. I’ve already written 2 complete stories and outlined another 2 from this e-book. I’m also taking a collection of 3 anthologies of short mystery stories, for research and relaxation. I want to write stories for anthologies so I need to get into the groove.

Here is the list of others to choose from:

  • Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Writing by Don George
  • How to Write for Magazines in One Weekend by Diana Cambridge
  • No Contacts? No Problem: how to pitch and sell a freelance feature by Catherine Quinn
  • How to Write your First Novel by Sophie King
  • How to Write Short Stories for Magazines and Get Them Published by Sophie King
  • How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larsen
  • Non Fiction Book Proposals Anyone Can Write by Elizabeth Lyon

Other books
And then there are the other books, the novels, the non-fiction. Do I take a book on the IRA (Catch the Rainbow), or do I take a book on Pirates (new)? Do I take the 2 non fictions I’ve already started? I have 3 new books coming from Waterstones (ordered a few weeks ago, but dispatched now), and I have the 2 I picked up in Sheffield last week. How many of those do I take?

Do you see my quandary?

Day job
I’m still busy at work, but at lunch time I need to pop out to the bank. I can’t linger because I have to be back for a 1:30pm All Staff meeting.