Bristol bound and inked out

October has been brilliantly busy for me, with Inktober through the month and finishing with Bristolcon at the end. It was a wonderful event, and as well as selling some paintings and postcards, my colourful stall even had a mention in a few people’s blogs! (Thank you Sophie and Thomas). To finally see all 5 of the Urban Faerie paintings hanging together in the very city that inspired them gave me a great sense of achievement which has left me creatively fired up to get started on my next series in the new year. Masses of love and thanks to everyone who helped make it possible by babysitting, driving, carrying canvases, chatting to me, buying art and supporting me.

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I tried my best to take part in Inktober this year, but with varying degrees of productivity. I caught a cold, various members of my family got ill and life generally happened. I’m not going to say that I failed it though – even though there are some artists out there that insist if you don’t complete an ink drawing a day you’re not doing it right. I completed a total of 5 ink portraits: one of Aidan Turner as Poldark, one of David Bowie as Jareth and a triptych of David Bowie eyes.  The original paintings of Bowie’s eyes I had beautifully framed and sold at Bristolcon – I don’t call that a failure! If you’d like to have a look at the paintings, or download a digital version of them for yourself, you can find them on my Etsy store  You’ll also find some beautiful prints of the 5 Urban Faeries paintings on there too, and to celebrate their arrival, I’m offering free UK postage on them until next year.

So what’s next? Well I’m finally getting back to work on the comic book that I’m illustrating, which was written by Neil, and then after that, I will begin photographing my models in preparation for my next series. I’m very nervous excited about this series – I can’t say too much about it at this stage, but I think it might divide people like marmite! There will be a total of 7 paintings in the series and as with a lot of my art, they will explore our relationships with ourselves, environment and each other. It is my hope these paintings will invite the viewer to question the things we do, things we don’t do and what type of relationships they think they are seeing. Stay tuned!

 

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Inktober 2018

It’s almost October, and that means it’s almost time for the annual artistic challenge that is Inktober. Every year, artists strive to create a piece of artwork every day for the whole month entirely in ink. To find out more, have a look at the official website.

You may recall I tried Inktober in 2016, with mixed results. I managed about 25 out of the 31 days – not bad considering it was my first time working in that medium, and I only owned one single bottle of violet coloured ink! In 2016 I challenged myself to ignore the official Inktober prompts and instead alternate between two subjects I loathe painting – self portraits and still life.

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This year I’m going to ignore the prompts again, but challenge myself to complete some portraits – hopefully you will be able to recognise who they are! I will be sharing my efforts over on Instagram and Twitter, so please have a look and do give me a ‘like’ if you think it looks good. Once the month is complete, I will share my favourites on the Gallery page.

It’s a tough challenge, but that’s kinda the point – you need to challenge yourself as an artist and occasionally step outside your comfort zone to develop and grow. In preparation, I am cutting the watercolour paper to size in advance, have sourced all of my reference photos and am practicing sketching the people whenever I get some spare time. To further give myself a chance of completing the challenge, I have decided to stick to a small size. Jake Parker, the creator of Inktober, says you don’t necessarily have to complete the 31 days “You can do it daily, or go the half-marathon route and post every other day, or just do the 5K and post once a week. Whatever you decide, just be consistent with it. Inktober is about growing and improving and forming positive habits, so the more you’re consistent the better.”

As a full time parent, I’m sure there will be a few spanners thrown into the works for good measure, I may not complete all the ink sketches I want to and towards the end of the month I am also exhibiting my artwork at BristolCon, so there’s plenty to be getting on with! Are any of you taking part in Inktober this year? If so, let me know in the comments below and feel free to include a link to where we can all follow your progress.

Wish me luck!

 

 

 

It’s About Time for Sophie E Tallis

Last year at BristolCon, I had the good fortune and pleasure to meet author and illustrator Sophie E Tallis in the art room, where she was exhibiting her fantastic pencil portraits, silk paintings and incredibly detailed fantasy maps. She’s been a practising artist for over 20 years, has a BA (Hons) Degree in Fine Art and a Post-Grad in Education, was a teacher for 16 years and has been a freelance illustrator for the last 6 years, including working for HarperCollins, Penguin Random House and as an Artist-in-Residence for Oxford University.

Sophie has illustrated 15 books so far, specialising in hand drawn detailed pen & ink illustrations and fantasy maps, including creating the fantasy maps for Anna Stephen’s ‘Godblind’ and Anna Smith-Spark’s ‘The Court of Broken Knives’, both published by HarperVoyager 2017 and for Diane Magras’s ‘The Mad Wolf’s Daughter’ by Penguin Random House, published 2018, for which she is now drawing the sequel’s map for.  Most recently Sophie has seen her artwork on the front cover of Far Horizons magazine. Sophie has also been a panellist, moderator and an exhibiting artist at BristolCon. Sophie is a shortlisted nominee in the 2018 British Fantasy Awards in the Best Artist category.

 

She is also a published author with BFS Award winning independent press, Grimbold Books, has been a full member of The Society of Authors and ALCS since 2013 and was an author/illustrator in the 2015 Cirencester Literary Festival. Her epic illustrated fantasy debut, ‘White Mountain’, the first of her Darkling Chronicles trilogy was re-published in December 2014 by Grimbold Books. She is still writing the sequel, ‘Darkling Rise’ and has had a number of stories published including her sci-fi short story ‘Silent Running’ featured in acclaimed anthology, ‘Fight Like A Girl’ published by Kristell Ink in 2016, and ‘The Orphan and the Iron Troll’, a dark fairytale in anthology, ‘Shadows of the Oak’, published December 2016 by Tenebris Books.  Sophie also has two Darkling Chronicle novellas, ‘The Siege of Kallorm’ and ‘A Friendship Forged’, coming out later this year.

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If this wasn’t enough, she has also recently opened her own Etsy store! Sophie lives in Gloucestershire with her four white wolves, and over the summer I asked her if she would take part in my continuing series of interviews about finding the time to be creative. Here is what she had to say…..

GB Tell me what a typical day looks like for you?
ST: I wake, usually after an insomniac night of between 3 – 4 hrs sleep and sit for about half an hour while my vertigo settles so I know I’m safe to stand up and walk to the bathroom. Annoyingly I get vestibular vertigo every day, some days are far worse than others, but I need to move slowly and give my brain a chance to stop swirling. My waking times vary due to my library job, so on mornings I’m working at the library I wake about 7ish on non-library days it’s nearer to 8:30 – 9 depending on how late my four doggies will let me sleep! I take them out for exercising & play for at least an hour, they then get their daily Piriton and treats, more exercise and play, then ‘fishy on a dishy’ (I have a whole embarrassing song ritual which goes with this) which involves giving them tablets/supplements in their favourite tinned salmon and tuna. Did I mention that my daily life is dominated by my four huge white wolfies? More exercise and play (and at the moment a lot of massaging my poorly dog and Photizo laser treatment). I never eat breakfast, I had forced myself for a few months but in all the heat that’s dropped off entirely. By about 10/11am after I’ve fed the birds and done my doggie stuff, I work for about 2/3 hours, either on drawing for a commission work or silk painting/other art (for sale). Sadly, I rarely do any writing these days. Before I got ill, I’d be writing for a solid 6 hours or so, now, my concentration and the mental exertion needed for writing maxs out at about 30mins. After the dogs lunch and my own, I continue working until 3pm ish when I take them all out again for a couple of hours. Back in for them to rest and more work then out again for another hour before they have their dinner. I only check emails and social media in the evenings, I’d get nothing done otherwise. After a final toilet for the dogs I head upstairs and mess around online or writing notes/little excerpts or sketching drawing ideas until about 2am. I rarely sleep much before 3.

GB: What is your biggest time challenge at the moment, and how are you dealing with it?
ST: One of my older dogs Tolly has degenerative myelopathy which paralyses his back legs and travels up the spine, so he requires so much help and attention throughout the day that it’s difficult to carve out any time for other things. I deal with it better on some days, if he’s relatively good and can walk a few steps before collapsing and worse on days when he’s bad and is just dragging himself around. The other time zapper is usually having to juggle several projects at the same time, like buses you have a quiet period then they all come at once!

GB: What tip would you give someone struggling to find time to create?
ST: Small steps. It’s obvious, but if you have a hectic life or are struggling with illness, you physically and mentally can’t take 5 or 6 hours just for yourself to go work on a project or block everything out until you complete it. No-one scales Everest in one go, tackle the small foothills first, one stage at a time. Every moment spent on a creative endeavour, no matter how short, is time well spent and is a success.

GB: Tell us a little secret about your art/writing/craft
ST: I get my best writing ideas/scenes when on the toilet or in the bath/shower, bizarre but true, and I get my best art ideas at night when I’m struggling to sleep. Actually being a total night owl my creative brain really ramps up in the wee small hours. There’s something a little magical about being awake when everyone else is asleep and just listening to the night sounds outside for inspiration.

GB: What couldn’t you do without to get you through the day?
ST: Some quiet alone time at least, which is why I’m so active at night, I rarely get quiet times during the day to just think about ideas and work out plots/scenes or artwork solutions, so my night times are essential. If I do nothing creative in a day, in whatever medium that may be in, I get really depressed, I literally need creativity for my physical and mental health!

GB: Final words of wisdom?
ST: Try to be kind to yourself. I say this as someone who beats myself up all the time over my lack of productivity, not being prolific, not writing fast enough (I’m glacially slow), not getting a project done by a deadline etc etc. Criticising yourself to the point of paralysis is self-defeating. Try not to be like me! Life throws curve balls at you all the time, it’s hard, it’s tough, shit happens, so give yourself a break if you’ve dropped a ball, missed a deadline, if you’re only writing a book once every 5 years while your friends whizz one off every few months, or if you’re only completing a few artworks every year while others manage new works every day.

Huge thanks to Sophie for her answers and insights. I love her advice to those of us struggling to find time and am a great believer in the power of small steps to move yourself closer to your artistic goals.

If you’d like to find out more, contact or commission Sophie, then all her links are below:

Website & Blog: sophieetallis.co.uk

Illustrations: sophieetallisillustrations

Book: thedarklingchronicles

FB page: facebook/fantasyepic

 

If you’d like to read more interviews about finding creative time, the previous ones can be found here: Andy Bigwood, Joanne Hall, Aliette de Bodard, Kim Lakin-Smith, Gareth L Powell, Iain Clark.

It’s About Time for Iain Clark

Welcome to the latest in my series of interviews about creative time. This month it’s the turn of artist Iain Clark. Iain divides his time between producing art for the Dublin 2019 WorldCon (slowly seeing the light of day in the form of adverts, flyers, posters, badges, bookmarks and t-shirts) and fan art for Doctor Who and other genre TV.  He has reviewed TV and film for Strange Horizons, and was a panel member at LonCon 2014 discussing the Hugo Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form).  He currently fits drawing and blogging around the capricious whims of his young daughters.

GB Tell me what a typical day looks like for you?
IC We’ve got our two daughters (aged 6 and 9) to a point where they no longer yell for us at 6.30 sharp, so we actually get some semblance of a lie-in until, ooh, maybe even 6.45 am (Okay, 7.30 on a good day). Then it’s simply of case of breaking the mesmeric spell of children’s television at 5 minute intervals until the kids are actually ready to go to school.

I work full-time and my wife works part-time so weekdays are pretty hectic.  After work it’s feed the kids, wash the kids, read to the kids, say night to the kids, and then try to fit creativity into whatever is left of the evening. (Not that raising kids isn’t creative, but it’s a very different kind of creative and like any manuscript they seem to need constant revisions and spend most of their time covered in biro.)

Generally I paint while sitting in the living room, which probably sounds a bit odd.  I’ve found that I’m far more likely to work if I can stay in the heart of the house with the TV as comfort noise in the background, rather than some isolated corner.  I have an easel set to the right height for the sofa, and I can happily paint until bedtime while my wife does one of her vast array of crafts.  Fortunately I mainly work in acrylics so the paints don’t stink out the room.  I’ve been trying some low-odour water-miscible oils recently too (such a different technique.)

GB What is your biggest time challenge at the moment, and how are you dealing with it?
IC Mentally I need a bit of a run-up to creating art.  I can’t just do ten minutes, I need to know I have at least an hour.  The later the kids go to bed, the more squeezed it becomes.  Depending on how the evening has gone up to that point, I generally end up with 1-2 hours to paint – that’s assuming we don’t watch TV or anything crazy like that. I always sit at work itching to paint, get home too knackered to even think about it, and then bounce back.

Current time management strategies are to try to eat when the kids eat, something we’d fallen out of the habit of doing, and we limit TV viewing to just the few shows we’re following.  Just one TV show a night really eats into my painting time.

GB Do you make use of internet limiting tools? Do they work?
IC I need them more than the kids! Twitter is my Achilles heel. My rate of reading books has suffered the most, because social media eats time and then I prioritise art over reading.  It’s so easy just to sit glued to the internet consuming and consuming and never make that step change into creating.  I don’t use any limiting tools. Maybe I should start!  I do really value the social interactions I have on social media so it’s a balance.

GB How has your craft evolved since becoming a parent?
IC
I’m learning all the time as a parent and I’m learning all the time as an artist, but the two don’t crossover all that much.  My daughters love art and are very supportive of their daddy doing pictures (lots of gratifying oohs and aahs!).

GB What tip would you give someone struggling to find time to create?
IC Tip: don’t have kids, a day job or social media!  Since I’ve foolishly pursued all of those things, when knackered-ness takes over I trick myself into doing art by getting out a work in progress and just looking at it; very simple but it gets me over the mental hurdle of starting because I immediately become obsessed with what’s wrong and sucked into fixing it.  Editing is easier than writing.  I also remind myself how I’ll feel later if I don’t knuckle down, looking back on all those lost opportunities.

GB Tell us a little secret about your art/writing/craft
IC
Despite having painted numerous fan art likenesses I still struggle to ‘find’ the face. They generally end up too long in the vertical axis.  I never trace, and I haven’t used grids when copying a likeness but recently I’ve been trying to be a bit more structured to sharpen up my proportions. I know many proper artists don’t bat an eyelid about grids but it always feels a bit like cheating to me.  I’m not judging, this is my hang up! Everyone’s process is different.

GB Do you have any recommended reading/resources that have helped you with your artistic time management?
IC
Er…no!  Having an understanding spouse who allows you painting time is something I would highly recommend.  If you don’t have one, take yours back and get a refund.

GB Do you ever involve your child(ren) in your craft, or is it a no go area?
IC
I’ve used my eldest daughter as a model in one picture (below).  ICpainting

And I’ve done a couple of pencil sketches of the girls as gifts for my wife. Other than that I do occasionally sit down and draw with them, particularly with my eldest.  She doesn’t want me to actually tell her anything or show her how to do anything (because obviously she knows best), she just wants the shared experience.  She’s inspired by cartoons she sees (she’s been perfecting manga-style eyes!) more than me.  I think there’s a fine line between being an encouraging role model and setting them an impossible standard. My art at age 9 was nothing special – they’re already much better than I was!

GB What couldn’t you do without to get you through the day?
IC Coffee.  By the gallon.

I don’t need to do art every day but I really crave the satisfaction of completing a piece, and I enjoy showing it to people and getting positive reactions.  That keeps me coming back.  I actually paint and draw now far more than I used to, despite the crazy hours.

GB Final words of wisdom?
IC I’m a fraud! I don’t know anything about art!  I’m just winging it. But it’s great when it works.

I think you’ll agree with me that Iain is anything but a fraud, and I can’t wait to see more of his Dr Who art and the Dublin 2019 WorldCon artwork as it’s revealed over the coming months. Iain’s gorgeous artwork can be viewed and bought on his website: iainjclarkart.com
You will also find him on twitter: @iainjclark
and Tumblr: iainjclark.tumblr.com

If you have missed any of my previous interviews with other wonderful writers and artists, the links are below:

Aliette de Bodard
Andy Bigwood
Gareth L Powell
Joanne Hall
Kim Lakin-Smith

 

 

Work In Progress….

Hi Folks,

It’s been a while since I did a blog post, so I thought I’d give you all a quick update. I’ve been very busy working on several works in progress – namely the Urban Faeries series. I’ve pretty much got one completed, one not started and the remaining three in various stages of completion:

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There is also another ‘work in progress’ which has just come to fruition, and that is the very recent arrival of our third child! While I am in the throes of caring for a newborn as well as a very active toddler, the blog may not have another update for a little while, or at least until the levels of sleep deprivation have settled down enough for me to hold a paintbrush!

In the meantime, I’ll be working out ways to juggle a toddler and newborn with time for creativity, finishing the Urban Faeries Series ready to exhibit at Bristolcon in October, and sketching bleary-eyed when I can!

Until my next update,
Gemx

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It’s About Time for Kim Lakin-Smith

This month, it’s the turn of Science Fiction, Dark Fantasy and Young Adult author Kim Lakin-Smith.

Kim is the author of the immersive steampunk novel Cyber Circus (shortlisted for the 2011 BSFA Best Novel award),  young adult novel Queen Rat, and has been featured in numerous anthologies and publications including Black Static and Interzone.

Let’s find out how Kim makes time to be creative and balances family life and full time authoring!


GB Tell me what a typical day looks like for you?
KL-S
I wake up to a chorus of dogs, cats and guinea pigs demanding feeding. Once everyone is satiated, I see my daughter, Scarlet, to her desk where she logs onto her laptop, ready for the online school she attends. Then I get out my mat and do my best attempt at yoga or Pilates, ‘assisted’ by two excitable dogs!

The writing starts around 10am, when, coffee in hand, I collapse onto the sofa and open my notebook. I write nonfiction on a pc and fiction using pen and paper. I am a Paperblanks addict; opening the little metal clasps of an antiqued notebook is very inspiring. I also love the fact that I can write anywhere, a coffee shop, library, train, etc.

I aim to write 6 pages every day. I’m not sure of the word count but I write in a tiny, indecipherable scrawl so it’s usually enough to make my brain feel emptied out. In-between, I perform the duties of your average domestic goddess and try to post on social media – something I struggle with as I’m a pretty private person. Usually I try to think of the inanest thing I can and go with that 🙂

I finish up work around 4pm, in time for the next round of feeding at the zoo. Evenings are reserved for family time, Scarlet’s homework, US TV shows, and the occasional night out. I’d love to say I collapse in bed with a good book around 11pm, but more often than not, my husband, Del, and I are also accompanied by two cats, a fat Labrador and a mad spaniel.

GB What is your biggest time challenge at the moment, and how are you dealing with it?
KL-S
Everyday life is my biggest time suck. I think it is a conscious choice whether a person allows themselves to be interrupted or not. Some writers are totally self-absorbed; family, friends, reality, everything comes second to the writing. My persona choice is to embrace these interruptions to my writing day. I do dream of a perch in the garden in summertime a few years from now when Scarlet is happy at college and everything is peaceful.

GB Do you make use of internet limiting tools? Do they work?
KL-S
I live in a family of social media addicts and do my best to personally steer clear of mobile phones and being online too much 🙂 That said, I use the internet daily for research. On the occasions, I have had no internet connection, my productivity has increased tremendously. It is a modern dilemma for us all!

GB How has your craft evolved since becoming a parent?
KL-S
I would be lying if I didn’t acknowledge the compromise that comes from trying to juggle work and parenthood. But there are also great splashes of technicolour which come from the wonder, pain, joy, and awe of having a child. In recent years, I have switched gears from adult SF to Fantasy for children and young adults. I’d love to say I write for Scarlet, but she doesn’t read books so I settle for remembering the child I was once and the kinds of stories I loved to read – J M Barrie, Enid Blyton, Lewis Carroll, Michael Ende, and their ilk.

GB What tip would you give someone struggling to find time to create?
KL-S
You really do have to create time, by which I mean dedicate a realistic portion of the day to working on your craft. In terms of writing, I think it is all too easy to underestimate how valuable it is to read. See your reading time as adding to your practice. In addition, I find that I can achieve a lot in a very small amount of time so long as I dedicate myself wholly to the writing. Tuck yourself away, set an alarm and focus entirely on letting the words flow.

GB Tell us a little secret about your art/writing/craft
KL-S
I am often to be found making strange hand gestures! By this I mean I will act out a scenario or an action with my hands to try to spark ideas and come up with the ideal description. I also have to find exactly the right mood of music to fit each individual story.

GB Do you have any recommended reading/resources that have helped you with your artistic time management?
KL-S
Only paper and pen, and a lock on the office door!

GB Do you ever involve your child(ren) in your craft, or is it a no go area?
KL-S
I have asked Scarlet her advice on occasion, but she is a very fierce critic! She has introduced me to some wonderfully inspiring resources which I would never have known about otherwise – South Korean music videos, Japanese Anime and Manga, Youtube stars, and Cosplay.

GB What couldn’t you do without to get you through the day?
KL-S
Coffee and music 🙂

GB Final words of wisdom?
KL-S
How hard do you want to work as a creative? I would say that is the only difference between success and mediocrity. That, and wholly embrace the ethos of artistic self-reliance, as expressed so eloquently by the inimitable David Bowie:

I am immensely grateful to Kim for taking the time to answer my questions and let us sneak a look at her daily process and finding time to be creative. As ever, please comment below to ask more questions or share your own tips. If you’ve missed the previous interviews then just follow the links below:

Aliette de Bodard
Gareth L Powell
Joanne Hall
Andy Bigwood

2016 Retrospective 

Back in January, I sat down with a big cup of tea, some chocolate and my Filofax and wrote a list of things I would like to achieve with my art.

Here is that list:

So, how did I do? Well, I’m pleased to say that despite moving house and being a full time mum to a busy toddler, I can tick off more than half of the items on that list!
I’ve learned so much this year. I took the plunge and joined Facebook! I entered my first ever painting competition which was also against the clock, had my first stall at a craft fair and exhibited my work in public at BristolCon.

Perhaps the most exciting and satisfying thing to tick off was selling my paintings. I started selling postcards, prints and original paintings in September and have sold 5 original paintings this year. This just about paid for the most recent batch of prints and paint that I bought – for the first time ever my art actually paid for itself!

There are still plenty of things to strive for and I’m already looking forward to writing next years list and seeing what adventures that may bring. I hope you will join me on the exciting journey ahead.

Until then, I hope you enjoy whichever holiday/festival you choose to celebrate and here’s to a happy and healthy new year.

Hugs,

Gem xxx

It’s About Time for Aliette de Bodard

If you’ve been struggling to find time to be creative, and have also been following my website, you’ll know that I’ve written a series of blog posts full of advice from my creative friends. This week I’m thrilled to share with you a few insights from the incredibly prolific award winning author Aliette de Bodard.

Aliette de Bodard writes science fiction and fantasy: her short stories have garnered her two Nebula Awards, a Locus Award and a British Science Fiction Association Award. She is the author of The House of Shattered Wings, a novel set in a turn-of-the-century Paris devastated by a magical war, which won the 2015 British Science Fiction Association Award.

In addition to her impressive bibliography, Aliette also works full time as a System Engineer, is a wife and mother of two children under five and is a fantastic cook!

1.     Tell me what a typical day looks like for you?
Currently it’s a bit of an atypical day, as I’m on maternity leave and writing/childcaring full time. I get up, run the eldest to school, and then get about 2-3 hours for my own appointments, cooking lunch, and writing in whatever cracks are left? Then, shortly before lunch I pick up eldest from school, get him to eat lunch and settle in for his nap. In the meantime I deal with the youngest who’s still a baby, which means feedings at odd times (generally not the most convenient ones). And in the afternoon I play with both kids before dinnertime comes around. By the time my husband comes home I’m generally headed for total collapse and netflix videos!
2.     What is your biggest challenge regarding time at the moment, and how are you dealing with it?
My biggest challenge at the moment is not finding enough time to write–I genuinely have very little of it that’s not taken up. I’m trying to write in the morning before the day has completely exhausted me, and also on weekends when my husband is around and can take on some of the burden of childcaring for me. I usually get a good chunk in on Sunday morning when he and the eldest are at the market shopping for food.3.     Do you make use of internet limiting tools? Do they work?
I used to, but for some reason Freedom won’t start up on my laptop anymore, and I haven’t found anything that really satisfies me? I haven’t found it really effective–I tend to research things on the internet for details and cutting it off wholesale didn’t work out for me. I know there’s finer tools out there but I haven’t really convinced myself to try any of them. And the internet and social media are contributing to keeping me functional at the moment (because getting out of the house isn’t always easy), so I have to admit I’m not that motivated to cut off the internet, even to write!

4.     How has your craft evolved since becoming a parent?
I’ve become very good at writing in snatches of free time, though I still need large chunks for first drafts–for everything else I do checklists and run through them and it’s actually worked surprisingly well, better than binge writing. I basically went through two rounds of edits on my novel while being the primary caretaker for my eldest (though I admit naps are very useful in that respect and I don’t know how I’ll cope when they don’t happen anymore!).

5.     What tip(s) would you give someone struggling to find time to create?
I think the hardest thing is to pace yourself–when becoming a parent I still expected to write on the same rhythm and production schedule as before, and of course that wasn’t going to happen! I know I find it very hard to forgive myself when I’ve not written because someone is sick, or because stuff happened that required extra laundry or cleaning the house or something–and a big part of this, for me, has been accepting that I can still write, but that it’s totally ok not to write or to write more slowly if that’s how it works for me.

6.     Tell us a little secret about your art/writing/craft
I’ve found the two best ways to deal with plot problems that have me stuck are going for a walk, and drawing a mind map on paper (it has to be on paper for some weird reason, it doesn’t work when it’s on a computer, though I do love Scapple as a piece of software).

7.     Do you have any recommended reading/resources that have helped you with your artistic time management?
Not that I can think of? I think the most helpful was finding parents in similar circumstances, either young parents or people who remembered what it had been like to be parents–it’s very helpful to be able to chat and share, and also to set aside time to write together.

8.     Do you ever involve your child(ren) in your craft, or is it a no go area?
I would love to involve my children in my writing, but right now they’re a bit young! I have no doubt that as they grow up they’ll feel free to give me their opinions of my plots and characters, though I’m not sure how much of it will make it into the final book…

9.     What couldn’t you do without to get you through the day?
Green tea. I buy sencha from the local Japanese shop, and it’s basically my one treat of the day (well, my six treats of the day as I consume rather a lot of it).


10.  Final words of wisdom?
I think there’s this great pressure when you’re a parent (and especially a mother) to dedicate yourself to your child, and to feel terrible guilt when you fail to? And if you want to do it that’s totally fine, but if you don’t it can become stifling very quickly. I know that for me I needed to strike a balance between time for others and time for myself, and I had to teach myself not to feel guilty about taking time to write.

My thanks to Aliette for taking time to answer my questions, despite her obviously busy schedule! As ever, feel free to ask questions or share your own tips in the comments below.
If you’ve missed my previous blog posts on finding creative time, just click on the links below:
Thanks also to Lou Abercrombie for the photo of Aliette

It’s About Time for Gareth L Powell

Continuing my series of blog posts about finding time to be creative, it’s now the turn of Gareth L Powell. Gareth is the award-winning author of the Ack-Ack Macaque trilogy and three other novels. He is currently working on a new trilogy of novels for Titan Books, the first of which will be published in the UK and US in February 2018. NewCon Press will publish his second short fiction collection The New Ships in April 2017.

With so many fantastic novels under his belt, as well as undertaking freelance work, giving guest lectures on creative writing at Aberystwyth and Bath Spa universities and occasionally on the radio, how does he make the time to write?

GB:  Tell me what a typical day looks like for you?

GP: My day usually begins around 6:30 am, when I get up to help my wife and kids get ready for work and school. Then, when I’ve seen them off, I’ll take a shower and make a cup of tea, and settle down at the keyboard, where I’ll usually remain until the kids get home around 3:45, and I start to think about cooking an evening meal.

GB: What is your biggest time challenge at the moment, and how are you dealing with it?

GP: As I work alone during the day, Twitter and Facebook are like my water coolers; they are places where I can go to chat with other colleagues and friends. And while a certain presence on those sites does help with promotion, it needs to be carefully balanced with the need to actually get down and do some writing.

GB: Do you make use of internet limiting tools? Do they work?

GP: I haven’t tried them. I find it handy to instantly be able to Google information when writing. For instance, if I suddenly need to know how long a radio signal would take to travel from Earth to Jupiter, it’s useful to have that information at my fingertips.

GB: How has your craft evolved since becoming a parent? 

GP: The author and critic, Cyril Connolly, once wrote that, “There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall.” And there’s no question about it: bringing up children is hard work. It takes love, devotion and lots and lots of time. As a writer, it can put a serious dent in the number of daily hours you have in which to write, and reduce your lifetime output from a hundred books to ten – especially if you also need a full-time day job in order to support your family. But listen to this: Before I became a father, I didn’t really understand what people meant when they talked of unconditional love. Now I know. Being a father’s changed everything. It’s made me vulnerable again. It’s given me moments of true happiness, fear, helplessness, and pride. It’s put me in touch with my emotions and given me new perspectives and empathy, and insights into my own childhood. And while it means I have to sacrifice sleep in order to find the time to write, it’s unquestionably been worth it.

GB: What tip would you give someone struggling to find time to create?

GP: You have to look at your daily schedule with a cold eye, and decide what’s more important to you, what you’re doing or what you want to do. For instance, how many hours of TV do you watch in an evening? Could you limit yourself to a single hour, and spend the rest of the time working on your art? Would concentrating all the housework into Saturday morning free up time during the week? Would a part-time job give you more time to pursue your art, even if you have to tighten your belt? I can’t supply answers to any of those questions, as everybody has to decide their own priorities.

Knowing what I’m going to write before I sit down at the keyboard is a big help. If you’re subconsciously mulling over the plot of your story while washing the dishes, walking the dog, or doing the shopping, you’ll find yourself coming up with all sorts of connections and ideas that you just can’t wait to get down on paper. Some of my best story ideas have come while I was in the shower, driving long distance, or walking to the pub. Keep a notebook with you, and you can jot down notes that will have you ready and raring to go when the time finally comes for you to write.

GB: Tell us a little secret about your art/writing/craft 

GP: Sometimes, I’ll write out all the dialogue in a scene before going back and filling in the descriptions.

GB: Do you ever involve your child(ren) in your craft, or is it a no go area?

GP: While both my daughters are enthusiastic about my books, I haven’t really involved them. They have their own hobbies and creative outlets, and I prefer not to place them in the public eye until they’re old enough to decide how they want to present themselves online.

GB: What couldn’t you do without to get you through the day? 

GP: Large mugs of decaff tea keep me hydrated, and ambient noise helps me concentrate. I use websites such as https://coffitivity.com and http://rainycafe.com to screen out external noise and keep me focussed.

GB: Final words of wisdom?

GP: Compromise where you must, but bear in mind that the work won’t get done unless you sit down and do it.

Massive thanks to Gareth for taking the time to answer my questions, share advice and giving us all a lovely insight into his creative process. You can find him at www.garethlpowell.com or on Twitter @garethlpowell. Gareth has recently taken the plunge and joined Patreon – if you would like to support him (every little bit helps) and bag yourself some cool exclusive rewards too, then check out his Patreon Page Here. There’s also a sneak preview video of Gareth reading from his forthcoming novel on there for everyone to enjoy!

If you missed my previous interviews on finding creative time, you can find them here:
Andy Bigwood
Joanne Hall

As ever, feel free to leave comments and ask more questions below. At the end of the month you will be able to find me at BristolCon where I will be exhibiting some of my paintings, selling prints, postcards and original paintings in the Art Show.

It’s About Time for Joanne Hall

In another blog post about finding creative time, I’m thrilled to share with you the advice and tips from writer Joanne Hall.You may know her as the author of The Art Of Forgetting series, Spark and Carousel and the forthcoming book The Summer Goddess.

Jo is not only a full time author, but also the chairperson of BristolCon and is Acquisitions Editor for Kristell Ink. So with at least three jobs that we know of, how does she find the time?

G: Tell me what a typical day looks like for you?

JH: I wake up, walk the dog for half an hour or so while I think about what I’m going to do for the day, grab a cup of tea and some breakfast and go to my office where I check emails and social media to see if I have anything pressing to do. I usually have several projects on the go on different computers, so, for example, I might spend the morning editing a book on my desktop. I break for lunch at one, walk the dog again watch the news, then I get out my laptop and work on whatever I’m working on on there from two until about 5.30, when Dog and I have another walk. I usually stop then, but if I’m particularly enjoying whatever it is I’m working on I’ll carry on until about eight and walk no 4. I don’t usually work after 8.30 at night because it makes me too wired and I can’t sleep.

G: What is your biggest time challenge at the moment, and how are you dealing with it?

JH: Just having too much stuff on the go at any one time, and I find things slip through the cracks unless I write myself strict To-Do lists and do them. I’m not in the position where I can turn down work that might pay now at the expense of work that might pay in the future, so paid work has to take priority and I find other projects fall to the bottom of the heap.

G: Do you make use of internet limiting tools? Do they work?

JH: I sometimes use MACfreedom – that’s a good one. It costs around $10 and it shuts off access to the internet for a certain period of time. And if you want to go online in that time period, you have to reboot! It helps me get a lot done in a short space of time, but it’s a pain if I need to stop and look something up.

G: What tip would you give someone struggling to find time to create?

JH: Just do little bits at a time. If you can sit down and really apply yourself for, say, 20 minutes, you’d be surprised how much you can actually get done. Carve out 20 minutes when you get up, or before you go to bed, or in your lunch break and just apply Bum Glue and put pen to paper (or whatever your preferred medium is. ) And don’t be shy about asking for the time you need – ask a friend to take the dog out, shut the kids out of the room and just do it!

G: Tell us a little secret about your art/writing/craft.

JH: I often work out very complicated scenes in my head while I’m walking the dog, and sometimes I come back to the present and realise I have no idea where we are…

G: What couldn’t you do without to get you through the day?

JH: Tea. And breaks for walking. Since we got the dog, who you would think would be a distraction, it’s actually really helped me to get outside and just have periods of uninterrupted thinking time while walking around. Often by the time we get home I’ve completely worked out the next scene in my head and all I have to do is write it! (This also works if you don’t have a dog, but if you’re going to roam the neighbourhood muttering to yourself, a dog makes you look a bit less bonkers!

G: Final words of wisdom?

JH: Enjoy your craft, don’t beat yourself up if you’re not doing as much as you hoped or working as fast as you hoped. But don’t be afraid to let your creative work take priority when you need it to – value your work!

Spark cover

Massive thanks to Jo for her answers. If you’re lucky enough to be going to FantasyCon this weekend, be sure to check out the launch of the The Summer Goddess – more details about the launch can be found here.

If, like me, you’re only attending FantasyCon virtually, you can also find Jo on Facebook, Twitter (@hierath77) and her own website.

To catch up with the previous blog post in this series about creative time, just follow the link below:
Andy Bigwood

As ever, if you have tips to share about finding the time to be creative or would like to ask me any of the questions just leave me a comment. Stay tuned for more creative time questions and answers over the next few weeks.