~ Hazel Harps On

Be Prepared!

I’m trying not to panic. August is laden with anxiety, mostly writing-related. At the end of the month my edits will be due in for my fabulous new agent Darley Anderson (Did I mention Darley Anderson is my agent? I did? Just in case you didn’t get that, Darley Anderson is my agent! Pause to pinch self). The recent edits have involved a huge amount of staring at the screen, moving things from chapter to chapter and back again, scrapping scenes, trying out new ones and exchanging words for other words. Not to mention agonising. I’m extra-anxious after what happened with my last agent. All I can do is keep honing and have faith that it’s getting better. Yet I have to be prepared for yet more rewrites, even (sob!) chucking some of the bits I love and have laboured over the most.

Another cause for anxiety is that this year I will be teaching at Swanwick Writers' Summer School for the first time. Swanwick is close to my heart. It was winning the prestigious Swanwick competition (and a free week at Swanwick) that propelled me into writing seriously in the first place. My workshop is on Editing Essentials. I have a huge amount of wisdom (?) to impart, but how can I impart it clearly and effectively in the space of an hour? There are many unknown quantities: there may be three attendees or fifty-three. They may be advanced writers or beginners – most likely a mix. They may want help with novels or stories or poetry. I can’t assume anything. I’m naturally disorganised but in this case I’m going to try and prepare for each and every scenario. I’ve seen that being prepared gets results.

Here's an example from my harping life. One of the things I admire about Martin and Celia, my fellow musicians in Foxwillow Trio, is their commitment to practice. Dare I say it, some of the people I’ve played with in the past have been uber-confident, assuming they need to put in very little work as they are already so good/popular/successful. Although Foxwillow are also good/popular/successful, they don’t rest on their laurels. Every performance is discussed in detail, the selection of songs chosen with care for that specific audience, timed and practised to perfection. The result is music which never fails to impress.

In July we performed at the wonderful Chagstock Festival. You can, of course, plan down to the last semi-quaver and googlemap, but you can’t control the weather. You can be prepared for it, though. Here we are pre-performance in the sofa-tent, modelling the correct footwear for English outdoor music Festivals.

Being prepared in every way was key to our success. And although the weather may have been bad-to-middling, the music went down a storm!

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