Writers (and Dreamers) Needed for New Website

‘Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’  Mary Oliver

It was one of those old roll-top desks, circa 1970, squat and beige and ugly, set on two pairs of spindly legs. I’d been sat at it for three hours, trying to write an essay on the early novelists. Trying and failing miserably.

There was a tightness in my throat – it had been there for weeks – as if someone had placed an invisible cord around my neck and every so often, at tense moments like these, they’d give it a pull. The only way I could swallow was to hold on to something solid to ground me. I clutched the edge of the desk and took a sip of water. Who was I to write about the likes of Samuel Richardson and Daniel Defoe? Literary fiction was as alien to me as life on Mars. I was an imposter. A council estate kid who’d got lucky and somehow ended up at university.

From the house next door came the sound of builders hammering and drilling to the music of Pink Floyd.

We don’t need no education.’

These builders, with their thick scouse accents and gallows humour were my people. The kind of guys I’d grown up amongst.

Most of my friends on my course at uni, with their cars and their credit cards and their well-connected parents? Not so much. To them, living in squalor in the middle of Toxteth was an adventure – a brief toe-dip into how the other half live, which they could escape from any weekend and every holiday. For me, the drafty rooms and peeling paintwork and mismatched furniture made it a home from home.

But our run-down student house was where the familiarity began and ended.

In the lecture halls and tutorials and student union bar I felt increasingly alone.

What was I doing there?

I stopped pretending to write and stared out the window.

I’d worked my butt off to get to uni to study English because my goal throughout my childhood had been to be a writer. To turn my love of writing into a career. To learn from the masters and hone my craft. But all I’d really learned since getting to uni was that I didn’t belong in this middle class world. My overdraft was growing out of control, I was having to bounce cheques to feed myself from the £1 bargain basket in Iceland Frozen Foods.

The invisible cord around my neck tightened.

I couldn’t face another year there, not being able to swallow for anxiety. Drowning in self-doubt and debt.

When I went home that summer, I’d never go back.

I’d abandon my writing dream and go and work for the complaints department of the cheapo frozen food company I’d shopped at with the proceeds of my bounced cheques.

At first, I’d feel overwhelmed with relief. I’d make new friends from a similar background to mine, I’d give my brain a break from all the writing and the cramming. I’d be able to pay off my overdraft. I’d be able to eat something other than economy crispy pancakes and beans on toast.

My only #LifeGoals would be to fit in and have fun.

I wouldn’t read a book for almost two years.

I’d seek my thrills on the dance floor.

I’d pretend not to care about anything else.

I’d dumb myself down and I’d numb myself out.

I’d also learn a really important lesson:

A life without dreams is like crawling through a dark tunnel with no light at the end.

Fast-forward twenty years. I’m standing at the front of a huge lecture theatre in Dubai, about to give a talk to hundreds of international students on the importance of daring to dream.

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I’ve been invited to speak there by the Sharjah Reading Festival, as the award-winning author of eleven books.

The talk I’m giving – about the importance of pursuing your dreams – is a talk I’ve given all over the world to tens of thousands of young people.

I’ve turned what happened to me into a cautionary tale with a twist. The twist being that it all worked out fine in the end.

Yes, I lost my faith in myself and my dreams … but I went on to overcome my fears and achieve way beyond my wildest dreams.

It took a long time and a few bumps in the road but I now live a life filled with freedom and adventure.

All because I learned to believe in myself and have faith in my dreams.

And now I feel really passionately about helping others achieve their dreams and not live a life dulled down by fear.

This was the inspiration behind my next book, The Moonlight Dreamers (out in July).

And it’s the inspiration behind a new project I’m planning on the soon-to-be-launched Moonlight Dreamers website.

I want to create an online hub where people can talk about their dreams, seek advice about their dreams and inspire each other to achieve their dreams.

So I’m looking for contributors to write guest posts on any of the following:

  • An account of how you achieved a dream … and the obstacles you overcame along the way
  • A piece about a dream you have … and how you plan to achieve it
  • An appeal for help regarding a dream. For example: it might be a dream of yours to become an actor or a writer or a politician but you’re unsure how best to go about achieving it. Simply write me a note outlining your dream and I’ll write a response crammed with tips and advice.
  • A post (or poem) about your dream for the world. Do you dream of world peace or an end to human trafficking? Do you dream of a healthier planet or a solution to the refugee crisis? Do you dream of a world free from terror and bullying and prejudice? Write a post or a poem about your vision.

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On my recent trip to the UAE I spoke to hundreds of students about their dreams for themselves and for the world and I was overwhelmed by their passion and vision. My dream for the Moonlight Dreamers website is to carry on that conversation and broaden it to include young adults all over the world.

If you would like to be featured on the site simply send your submission to:

contact[AT]siobhancurham[DOT]co[DOT]uk

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions too.

Let’s help each other dare to dream of a brighter future – for ourselves and for the world.

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Behind the Scenes Secrets of Writing a Book

I’ve just finished writing a book. It was a book that ended up consuming most of my waking moments – and a few of my sleeping ones too.

And now I’m emerging, blinking into the light – and back on to this blog – I thought it might be useful to write a behind the scenes look at my writing process.

It’s a process I’ve honed over many years and many books so I hope it helps anyone new to writing who might be reading this – or anyone old to writing but feeling a little jaded or in need of fresh inspiration.

Initial brainstorm

The first thing I do when planning a new book is take myself out for a brainstorm. When I’m writing I like to stay at home but I seem to brainstorm much better away from home: in a park, in a cafe, on a walk. When I was brainstorming Tell it to the Moon I took myself to a local cafe for the day to flesh out the characters and come up with a basic plot outline. (TOP TIP: Fleshing out the characters first gives you loads of ideas for the plot.)

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Finding the fire

Once I have the basic outline I ask myself: Does it fire me up? Does it have me itching to write? Will I be motivated to write upwards of 70,000 words? When I asked myself these questions regarding my initial outline for Tell it to the Moon, the answer came back, ‘Erm, not really, no.’ The idea was interesting to me but not incendiary. So I asked myself another couple of questions:

What are you really passionate about at the moment? What, if you could work it into the plot, would have you burning to write this book?

I got the answer immediately: I feel really passionately about the pressures facing teens which result in ten percent of them experiencing mental health issues. And if I could create a storyline that would hopefully empower and inspire young people to demand positive change then I’d definitely be fired up to write.

I changed my plot accordingly.

Schedule your word count

Once I had my characters fleshed out and my plot outline nailed down I worked out a schedule that would enable me to deliver my first draft on time. For me, this was to write 10,000 words per week. Every week I’d look at my diary and schedule in smaller chunks – 3,000 words on Tuesday, 2,000 on Wednesday, 3,000 on Friday, 2,000 on Saturday etc.

Finding your pace

I never rush the beginning of a book. I take my time to find the voice and the rhythm and I reassure myself that it’s fine to write badly at first; at this stage of the process it’s all about getting into the flow.

Making course adjustments

Inevitably once you start writing, you’ll discover things that don’t quite work when it comes to your plot outline. That’s OK – adjust away. Ditto, characters. Be open to tweaking and changing. I made several course adjustments during the writing of Tell it to the Moon and the book’s a lot stronger for it.

Hitting a block – or two

I always hit a block at some point during a book when something isn’t quite working and the solution isn’t yet apparent. Here’s what I did this time round – I wrote TO the book. And by that I mean, I journalled about the issue. I wrote about the block I was encountering and I wrote about how I could fix it. I kept on writing until the solution appeared. It’s so much easier to write your way out of a block than think your way out. I highly recommend it.

Another great way to brainstorm your way out of block is to jot down potential ideas on post-it notes or index cards, then move them around until a way out begins to take shape.

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In for the long haul

Writing a book is the literary equivalent of running a marathon. It makes sense therefore that you take good care of yourself throughout the process. When I was deep into Tell it to the Moon it was the fag-end of winter and everyone around me were dropping like flies from the latest flu or cold virus. I couldn’t afford to get ill and take a week out of my schedule so I upped my intake of raw food and green juice and I sailed on through, blissfully snot-free. I also made sure I got outside loads and did plenty of physical exercise. Personally, I find yoga, walking and dance really conducive to creativity.

Focusing on the finish line

When I get to the final quarter of a novel I find that it takes on a momentum of its own which requires my undivided attention – and Tell it to the Moon was no exception. In the last three weeks of writing I hunkered down and became a real hermit. The only way I could focus on bringing all of the different plot strands together was to make my life as distraction-free as possible. My friends barely saw me, I lived and breathed the book, I didn’t even go on Netflix! But it paid off. I got the job done. I was able to type those magical words THE END knowing I’d given the book my all … and let me tell you, there’s no better feeling.

Tell it to the Moon is the sequel to my novel, The Moonlight Dreamers, available to pre-order on Amazon here.

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