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9 September 2019, 3:16 pm
It’s the day after an adrenalin-fuelled weekend, and I’ve coined a new word: I’m twired – a combination of tired and wired – after running a three-hour self-edit mini course, hosting Friday Night Live, running a two-hour psychic distance story lab with Emma Darwin, a workshop on Breaking the Rules and one on Facing the Fear, as well as chairing the final keynote address, with Cathy Bramley. Cathy is the superstar of the 6-week online self-edit course I’ve run with Emma since April 2011. One in five of our alumni from the earlier courses have gone on to be published but, in Cathy’s group, six out of 11 are now published, with Cathy having sold over a million (!) books.

I’m not the only person to say that the 10th Festival of Writing in York was the best yet. The team at Jericho Writers put together an event that covered just about every aspect of writing and getting published, exploring all the different ways to write a novel, as well as the different routes to publishing. As ever, the warmth and inclusivity makes FoW different from many other festivals. With a packed programme of workshops, keynote addresses, story labs, competitions and 1-1s with agents and Book Doctors, it’s no wonder so many people come back year after year. And, of course, some of them start out as delegates and end up running workshops as published authors. I’m talking about people like Mandy Berriman, Cathy Bramley, James Law, Jody Klaire, Melissa Addey, Isabel Costello and Amanda Saint. There can be no doubt lives will have been changed as a result of FoW19 and I can’t wait to hear the success stories rolling in.

I didn’t take as many photos as usual but I’ve managed to gather some together to record an incredible weekend.

York wouldn’t be York without a duck pic

Half of the people at the self-edit mini course

Julie Cordiner and Janette Owen at Friday night dinner

Friday Night Live, with all the shortlisted authors
Blurred – but you get the energy and excitement
Assembling the panel of agents
And we have a winner! Congrats to Taranjit Mander
Half the room in the psychic distance story lab
Gala dinner. L-R: Emma Darwin, William Angelo, John Taylor, Mandy Berriman

Gala dinner. L-R: Julie Cordiner, Melanie Garrett, Emma Darwin

Gala dinner. L-R: Janette Owen, Helen Kampfner

John Taylor and Julie Cohen

Gala dinner. L-R: Emma Darwin, William Angelo, John Taylor, Mandy Berriman, moi, Helen Kampfner, Janette Owen
The traditional self-edit alumni photo

And another alumni pic

Emma Darwin, Janette Owen and Jody Klaire, with Ferb
Finding the self-love in the Facing the Fear workshop

Sharing the love
More sharing

My York safe space

Final keynote with Cathy Bramley

18 July 2019, 12:18 pm
I’m feeling very sad on the day I should be celebrating. The Gene Pool has now been published – the fifth and final novel in the Nirvana series – so I should be dancing, eh? Instead, my guts ache with a feeling that I’ve managed to identify as loss. I miss my Nirvanan family. I’ve lived with them for about 20 years and it’s not just that they’ve gone off into the world, like your kids leaving home. I have to recognise that I’m never going to be sharing space with them again.

I’m handing them all over to you now. Please be gentle with them – though they’re tough enough to kick back if you’re not.

Oh, and if you want the full set you can buy all five for under a tenner from you know where.

15 July 2019, 5:59 pm

On Thursday (18 July) I will be publishing The Gene Pool, the fifth and final novel in the Nirvana series. The first two, Nirvana Bites and Trading Tatiana, were originally published by Orion before being re-published by my Nirvana Publishing imprint, along with De Nada Nirvana and Me, John and a Bomb
I ought to have a mailing list. I should be sending round ARCs. I should have organised a blog tour. I ought to have set up advance orders. I should be BUILDING A BUZZ FFS. 
If you know me, it will come as no surprise that I’ve done none of these things. This blog post, and an update when the book is up on Amazon, is the limit for me. My utter crapness at self-promotion is legendary. I’ve come to terms with it, as I said a while back, at the end of my Facing the Fear post. Do as I say, not as I do, folks.
It’s odd to be publishing this final Nirvana novel and I have to admit to feeling bereft. Nirvana Bites was originally published in 2002. The Gene Pool was written over a decade ago (though it’s been recently edited). I’ve lived with these characters for about 20 years and now the time has come to share them with the world for the last time – and to let them go. 
When I began writing the lives of these people, I originally thought they would sustain a single novel. I had a two-book deal with Orion and when I started writing Trading Tatiana, focusing on a different main character narrator, my Nirvanan characters muscled their way back in, insisting they weren’t done yet. It was my agent who suggested I should continue writing their story, saying he thought they were ripe for a TV series. And so De Nada Nirvana was born – the first novel I’d written in third person, following the lives of the narrators from the first two novels: Jen in South London and Jo in Spain. In this novel, Jen was pregnant, and the members of the Nirvana Housing Co-op were all learning and growing, continuing to do so in Me, John and a Bomb, where Jo had returned to the co-op and Jen and Ali were by now the parents of twins.

I didn’t know it at the time, let alone intend it, but, looking back over the five novels, I can see there’s an overarching arc for all the main characters. The members of my Nirvanan family, having established the power of non-blood relationships, were now ready to concede that blood-ties also matter. While the plot of The Gene Pool revolves around local government corruption, by the end of it, one thing was clear to me: my Nirvanans had grown up.

Although, theoretically, each of the novels can stand alone, my hope is that readers will have bonded with my Nirvana family over the whole series. They’re still out there somewhere, living their lives, but my time with them is done.

I’d love to release them as paperbacks eventually but, for the time being, they’re e-book only. And just think about this: after Thursday, you will be able to buy all five books for less than a tenner. That can’t be bad, eh? Check ’em out here.

14 September 2018, 12:36 pm
The annual self-edit alumni photo at York
Friday Night Live winner, Helen Kampfner

The 9th Festival of Writing in York, and the first under the banner of Jericho Writers – formerly Writers’ Workshop – passed in the usual blur of activity, creativity and enthusiasm. As a result, I have a tsunami of work to catch up on so this post is going to rely on pictures to convey a flavour of the weekend in which lives were changed.

Friday Night Live hopefuls

The view over the lake
Jody Klaire and Ferb

My secret festival sweet spot
Writers writing in my self-edit mini course
The fabulous Julie Cohen and John Taylor, wearing his storyteller face
John Taylor and Mandy Berriman
Helen Kampfner, self-edit graduate and winner of Friday Night Live!
The Psychic Distance workshop
Mandy and John again, scrubbed up for the gala dinner
Self-editing lovelies: Julie Cordiner, Janette Owen, Helen Kampfher
The Jericho Writers posse
The 1-1 hall
Sharing the love in my Facing the Fear workshop
Sitting on the floor. We need a bigger room next time
The closing keynote speakers: Susanna Wadeson, publishing director at Transworld, and Mandy Berriman, author of Home – and my mentee!
Grabbing their places early for the closing keynote: Janette Owen, John Taylor, Vanessa Thornton-Rigg, Julie Cordiner
On stage for the final keynote: Susanna Wadeson, Mandy Berriman and yours truly
Mandy signing copies of Home

21 November 2017, 2:15 pm

The story behind the stories: 256 anonymised submissions, all on the theme of ‘Home’. 55 stories chosen (with great difficulty!) for the anthology.


Another 29 published free on our website.

And, now after many, many hours of hard work by our team of committed volunteers …

… I’m more than delighted to share the news that the paperback launch for Stories for Homes 2 is TODAY!

See an interview I did with Retreat West here.

Check out our forthcoming events here.

And, in case you need any persuasion, this is why we’re committed to doing something about the housing crisis.

* According to Shelter, 65,000 families will be homeless this Christmas.
* At least one more family becomes homeless in Britain EVERY TEN MINUTES.
* There are 250,000 homeless people in England. That’s a quarter of a million!
* 300,000+ in Britain.
* In the worst hit areas, 1 in 25 people are homeless.
* Last year, the lowest number of socially rented homes were built in 71 years. 71 YEARS!
* Tory austerity is linked to 120,000 deaths, according to a study in BMJ Open (medical journal).

The devastating tragedy of Grenfell Tower should never have happened. That’s why we dedicated this book to the victims and survivors of the Grenfell fire.

SfH1 raised over £3000 for Shelter. This is a photo from our previous launch. We eventually doubled the figure in that dummy cheque! You can still buy the first anthology here.

Read more about the project here, in a blog by the wonderful Jel, who has been doing sterling work with promoting the anthology. The gorgeous cover was designed by Head and Heart, featuring an original artwork by my co-editor, Sally Swingewood. 

As before, all this has only been possible thanks to our fabulous team of volunteers. Their unpaid hard work means that every penny raised goes direct to Shelter. 

Access to a safe and secure home is a human right – one that thousands of people are denied in 21st century Britain. This world class anthology is a good deed in a very naughty world. Thanks so much for your support. Together, we can make a difference.

Debi on Twitter

Author, freelance editor, creative writing mentor & tutor. 1st 2 novels pubbed by Orion & re-pubbed by moi, along with next 3 in series. Proud co-editor #SfH2