September is the start of the new term. Throughout the month The Prime Writers are telling us about their fresh starts and new beginnings. To get us started, Katherine Clements and Louise Beech share two very different ways in which this autumn means ‘back to school’ for a writer.
Katherine Clements, author of The Crimson Ribbon, really is heading back to school:
September shouldn’t mean much to me, other than the approach of autumn. I don’t have kids so there’s no summer holidays, no uniform buying, no packed lunches or school run. But there’s something about this time of year that always feel a bit ‘back to school’. I suppose it’s hardwired – whether it’s a result of the academic year that influences our childhood, or the seasonal one that dictates our serotonin levels and our wardrobes. And this September I feel it more than usual, because I really am going back to school!
After a few years as a full time writer, I’m starting work as a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of Sheffield. This brilliant scheme, run and funded by the RFL, places writers in universities to support students with their written work. I’ll be working with students from the biological sciences departments to help them improve their writing skills. It’s a daunting prospect but promises to be interesting and rewarding. For two days a week I’ll be running one-to-one sessions, working on essays and assignments in a confidential, advisory capacity – a welcome and productive change from the solitary business of completing my third novel – the other daunting task that awaits me this autumn.
Meanwhile Louise Beech, author of How To Be Brave, is turning over a new leaf:
I used to love the start of a new term when we went back to school. That blank sheet, in a brand new and un-ruined exercise book, as crisp as the leaves on the ground. Imagining all the amazing stories I’d fill the pages with (in English mainly, but I’d find a way in Chemistry and History too!)
The plan every time was also neat handwriting. Words carefully scribed in my loopy, dreamy teen scrawl. Words that didn’t fall off the lines or smudge.
Now, with the warm golden days of Autumn in the air, that new start is here again. My debut novel, How to be Brave, came out in September 2015, and now my second, The Mountain in my Shoe, is also due its launches this month. So this time of year has become quite special to me. It means beginnings almost more than the new year. Hope. Optimism.
And editing my third, while writing my fourth, means I’m very keen to still keep those words on the lines and not let them smudge. I’m sure that further down the line I’ll tire and have to force myself to keep at it, just as my school exercise books got gradually scruffier and more ink splodged. But, oh the first page. That’s all I have think of.