Yay! I made the arts and entertainment pages of Diva Magazine online - and not only that. My article is the second 'most read' on the site presently! How cool is that? If you would like to read the article, here's the link: DIVA.
For those who know me well, I'll be forgiven for posting this late. I was called away from Crimefest early due to a family emergency, but I couldn't let such a wonderful festival go by without congratulating the organisers. Well done everyone! This year was even better than 2012.
Turn the Page at Doncaster Literary Festival was my final Read Regional event today and marks the end of a wonderful year travelling around the north of England. The whole point of the Read Regional campaign was to promote and connect local readers to books by local authors.
During my journey across libraries and book festivals in the north, it came as no surprise that people enjoy reading books by local writers because they have told me so - both face to face and in letters I've received on my website.
My Kate Daniels series is set in and around Newcastle and Northumberland. I've always thought that setting is as important as any character in a book and it seems that readers agree with me. They love it when they recognise the streets and buildings familiar to them. So, while I'm on the subject of northern setting let me introduce you to my fellow Read Regional author, Russ Litten.
During Read Regional I was frequently paired with Russ, a wonderful author whose first book Scream If You Want To Go Faster is set in Hull. I've heard him read from it on numerous occasions and, if you like northern settings, you should go out and buy it. His second book Swear Down is a crime novel set in the south - we are now in competition! - but I won't hold that against him.
I'd not met Russ before this campaign but it has been my absolute pleasure to work with him. I'm sure he would agree that it's been a blast discussing our different routes to publication, our books and writing in general. We've touched on poetry, short stories and screenwriting that have all played a part in our early writing careers. We've been asked many questions about how we write, plan, plot - where we get our inspiration from.
We've talked to many aspiring writers trying to find their own voice, seeking help about agents and the publishing industry . . . and we hope that, in some small way, we've given them good advice. There is life after rejection for those who keep the faith and are brave enough to share their work to others.
I'd just like to end by acknowledging New Writing North who organise the Read Regional campaign and support local writers. Thank you for giving me this wonderful opportunity to connect with local people and spread the word about my books. I've met many lovely people along the way, librarians and library assistants, writers, readers and Russ.
This post will also appear on the Read Regional blog.
Last Thursday I visited HMP Low Newton to talk to a reading group - and what a fantastic audience they were. As many of you already know, I used to work in a prison myself. It's a very different experience when you're not a member of staff with an ID however: there was the search tank, the pat down and fingerprinting to contend with. As a crime writer, when someone asks for your fingerprints, all sorts of odd thoughts go through your head!
Transported back in time, I actually reached for my keys as I approached a locked gate. Anyway, I had a brilliant morning and I'd like to thank English PEN, HMP Low Newton's librarian, but most of all the women who made up the group for the warm welcome they gave me. I was touched by the words of one group member: "Very informative and inspiring - Mari showed me that good things can come from bad experiences."
At the weekend, I attended Newcastle's inaugural Writing Conference organised by New Writing North in association with Northumbria University. The day began with a brilliant keynote speech by Costa-nominated author, Stephen May, and continued with an array of impressive speakers: top literary agents, publishers and authors.
Topics included getting published, current trends, the process of bookselling and touched upon some of the innovative projects writers are getting involved with on the digital side of publishing. There was a chance to network with other delegates and even time for a mini tweet-up with Twitter friends I'd never met before outside of the social media platform. So well done to all those involved in putting the conference together.
I was on radio at BBC Tees today talking about my journey to publication, my links with Teesside University, my former job as a Probation Officer and of course my books. I even got to sit in the presenters chair and choose my own music. What an absolute treat! It was great fun, but I should tell you that the name of the presenter was a little scary: John Foster. If you've read The Murder Wall, you will know what I mean. ;)
One of the music tracks I chose was Joni Mitchell: For Free. When John asked me why, I said it was because it always makes me cry. But there is a more serious reason. If you haven't heard it, do listen in. The lyrics are a reminder that there's not much difference between star performers and the talented others that never make centre stage. That's as true of writers as it is of musicians which is the real reason I love it so much.
If you'd like to listen to my chat with John you can do so here: BBC Tees My contribution begins at 2:07 and ends at 2:58, although he did go on to play one more of my tracks after my interview: Jackson Brown - For a Dancer - another great favourite of mine. Thanks for inviting me onto the show John!
Until this weekend, I'd never been to a CWA conference. I went this year for three reasons: because Peter James told me I should. Because is was a rather special anniversary - the 60th! And because it was being held in Bowness-on-Windermere in the Lake District - one of my favourite places to visit.
Like other crime writing events, I arrived with the expectation of seeing many of the authors I knew from festivals like Harrogate, Crimefest and Bloody Scotland. But this was not the case at all. With one or two exceptions, the majority were not people I'd met before - but what a friendly and inclusive bunch they were.
The weekend kicked off with a cruise on Lake Windermere - Prosecco in abundance - and sunshine. Hooray! An hour later, with hailstones pelting the open deck, the return leg was a little more friendly than I'd anticipated as everyone went below to keep dry. It was a lot of fun.
I applaud Peter James - outgoing chair - who worked tirelessly to serve the CWA during his chairmanship. I'd also just like to say a big thank you to Diane Janes who organised the jubilee event. She made sure everything ran smoothly, putting on a full programme of informative lectures and leisure activities for those who wanted them, allowing time to take in the magnificent scenery or hit the shops for those who didn't.
It was lovely to meet our new director, Lucy Santos, and to be there to welcome in the new chair, Alison Joseph. This year may have been my first conference, but it will not be my last.