Writing is a slow and solitary affair. We beaver away for hours, days, months and years, rejecting and selecting the “right” words as we seek to wrestle order from a chaotic universe, aiming to tame a skerrick of meaning or amusement for ourselves and others.
The task is voluntary and long, and the outcome unknown.
So, the chance to speak with other writers, particularly after lockdown and despite some wildly different genres, is an opportunity to cherish.
I must thank our Swedish friends for introducing us to the concept of “Fika” which roughly translates into “shared snack break.” Most importantly, it includes something sweet, along with other people.
Enter Carolina Totterman, an Australian with Scandinavian roots who decided to set up Cultivator, near North Sydney.
Enticed inside her shopfront by the basket for recycling batteries, “swap a plant cutting” jars, displays of bright cotton reels, swathes of fabric, and a large wooden table and chairs, I soon fell into conversation with her.
Ten minutes later, Fika and Fiction was born, the opportunity for writers like me to stop and chat over chocolate cake once a month.
So far we’ve met twice, our numbers doubling and our genres now including espionage, memoir, women’s fiction and my own output—clean romance, or #uplit.
An hour and a half disappeared with the cake as we swapped notes on editing, publishing and resources. It was cathartic to discuss the highs and lows of our all-too-secret then all-too-public chosen art.
It’s a book club with a difference, where nascent characters, plots and language are thrown back into the cauldron before we return to our solitary fray, fortified.
“Collaborative workshops and writers’ peer groups are good inventions,” writes Ursula K. Le Guin, in Steering the Craft, a 21st Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story.
“They put the writer in a community of people all working at the same art, the kind of group musicians and painters and dancers have always had.
“A good peer group offers mutual encouragement, amicable competition, stimulating discussion, practice in criticism, and support in difficulty.”
She also recommends online versions as alternatives to meeting face to face.
“Ultimately you write alone. And ultimately you and you alone can judge your work. The judgment that a work is complete—this is what I meant to do, and I stand by it—can only come from the writer.”
She goes on to write of the importance of self-criticism and how group criticism can assist with developing that skill.
I am grateful to Carolina and to my critique partners, and look forward to celebrating their writing wins with them over the years.
Welcome to new VIPs!
I’ve previously mentioned my delight at having readers in more than 40 countries! This month I warmly welcome readers from another five—Trinidad, Jamaica, Greece, Turkey and India.
I’m thrilled that New Zealand reviewer Pauline Reid gave House of Diamonds five stars in her BookBub review. (As you need to join BookBub to read it, see excerpts below.)
“I thoroughly enjoyed the story and I was loving all the descriptive words on each single piece of jewellery, extremely exquisitely done,” Pauline wrote.
“I absolutely adored the plotting skills and the angst between Stella and James Huntley. Plenty? Oh yes, there was plenty of angst and my eyes gleamed with anticipation of what sort of who har was going to happen next.
“I found this a very entertaining story, fast paced with loads of happenings to keep the reader occupied. This is what I call a “feel-good fiction” with uplifting endings, with light, sweet, modern love tales with wider themes including finding one’s path and sustainability.”
Big thanks to Pauline, and to everyone else who so generously shares their feedback in diverse ways.
On that note, shoutout to ItsSandrini and Andy H from the UK for their own lovely reviews!
A number of readers who prefer paperbacks have pointed out that Amazon lists the newly released House of Clubs (tracing the French adventures of stylish widow Cynthia Huntley), as “temporarily out of stock”.
Amazon tells me purchasers should buy it from the Amazon of their own country (Aussies from Amazon.com.au, US readers from Amazon.com etc). When I asked whether I had to include “buy” links to more than 40 countries on my website, I didn’t receive a reply.
Can I suggest that you go onto your own country’s Amazon website and simply type “Amber Jakeman” in the search bar?
As most of my readers so far are from the US and Australia, I include those links in my books page, along with the e-book links. Please email me if you’re still having trouble and would like me to post you a copy.