Writer Of The Week: Léonie Gregson

DAN BARKER www.danbarkerstudios. © Léonie Gregson, Writing Bursary Competition Winner

Our Writer Of The Week is “Friend” Writing Bursary Competition winner Léonie Gregson. Léonie’s story, “Fossils”, is in the May 4 issue, on sale this week.

“Fossils” is a serious story, yet inspiring, too. Was it about capturing hope as much as it was raw emotions?

Yes. I wanted the story to reflect that even in our darkest times, a little thing like an encounter with a stranger can bring hope, and occasionally change the whole course of our lives. We never really know what’s going to happen next, so it’s important not to despair. Life’s compass really can swing round 180 degrees when we least expect it.

How does it feel to be the overall competition winner?

I was thrilled to win, and also shocked. When I sent my story into the “PF” it never even occurred to me that it might win! When I found out, there was, of course, a bit of jumping up and down, followed by a trip to our local wine shop for a bottle of fizz. The win has given me a much-needed burst of creative enthusiasm.

How much do you think writing is about believing in yourself as it is about actual writing?

Writing can be a very private, personal thing, if that’s what you want. It can be a great way to work through your emotions, and you don’t have to show it to anyone. But if you do want to share your writing more widely, that takes confidence, and resilience, too, because there will be people who don’t like it. And in these days of social media, you will hear about that!

If you try to get published, unless you’re lucky, you’ll probably have to face rejection, maybe multiple times. At that point you can either give up and just write for yourself, or self-publish, or decide to try harder.

I found I had to be humble and say, “OK, I thought this was ready, but maybe it’s not.” Then edit, edit, edit – and try again.

What are your future writing plans – “PF” or otherwise?

I’m keen to write some more stories for the “Friend” – they’re such a lovely team to write for. I’m working on a novel, too, and I have promised to finish off a children’s story for my step-grandchildren (but I fear they might be teenagers by the time I’m done). I also have an idea for combining my three loves: writing, photography and walking in the mountains; maybe as a nonfiction project.

Rewrites – love them or loathe them?

They’re a necessary evil. I sometimes do them too quickly after the first draft. My tip is to put the story away for six months – if you can bear it. The rewrite will be so much easier then as you’ll be reading your story with fresh eyes and any problems will be more obvious. I did that with “Fossils” – and it paid off!

Notebook and pencil or laptop? Kitchen table or study? Blank wall or inspiring view?

Ever since I was a little girl, I have written in my bedroom, sitting on the bed, and I still do that now. Maybe because it helps me get back into that child-like state. These days, I use a laptop because I’m always changing things, and my handwriting is practically illegible – even to me.

But I often get ideas when I’m out walking, and either jot them in a notebook or use a nifty voice recording app on my phone.

What’s your one top tip for aspiring writers?

Start with character. You need to get to know your characters really well – ideally before you start writing your story. Not just the main character, but anyone who inhabits your story. Do this, and the story will take care of itself. It may even head off in an unintended direction, driven by the characters’ personalities – and that’s fine.

New writers often have a great plot but neglect their characters, but characters are what makes the reader care. Stephen King’s very readable book “On Writing” has some excellent and memorable tips on writing characters.

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.