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Filling the void as we embark on writing projects for 2022

By Barbara Henderson

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ArtyNess by Barbara Henderson

Barbara Henderson at a previous XpoNorth, where her Tweet Pitch for first picked up.
Barbara Henderson at a previous XpoNorth, where her Tweet Pitch for first picked up.

My house is still full of youngsters, but to be honest, I am a little distracted.

No, not by the return to work in the school I teach in.

I am talking about the lure of the blank page.

I don’t know what it is, but for many years now, I have felt compelled to set out on a fresh project in January.

It’s the simplest of metaphors – the uncertainty of an expanse of white paper, the potential and the promise of it all, just as we contemplate a new year with all its possibilities.

I had an idea for a young reader series in November and have nursed it and fed it and kept it alive all these weeks. Finally, pen will meet paper and I will allow myself to actually do something about it. It’s exciting and daunting, much like 2022.

I may have mentioned it before, but one of my favourite quotes is by German writer Hermann Hesse: "A magic dwells in each new beginning." And with that, let me flag up a couple of opportunities for those who may wish to take their own writing forward.

First of all, there is the annual XpoNorth Tweet Pitch, set to take place on Friday, January 21. Writers can pitch their work, or their ideas, in a single tweet on the day – and as long as the all-important hashtag is included, publishers and agents will read the pitches. You never know, you may strike lucky and secure a publisher’s interest early on in the year.

Back in 2016 and after 121 rejections and counting, I tweeted my pitch for Fir for Luck out into the void. I was astonished to see it noticed by a publisher. That September, I was a published novelist, and two subsequent book projects have come straight out of subsequent XpoNorth Tweet pitches.

Many people don’t know that, for non-fiction, you only need a single sample chapter and an outline, so it could be a manageable target in advance of the day. More details at https://xponorth.co.uk/events/xponorth-tweetpitch-2022.

Perhaps you are already writing. Perhaps someone else in your life is. Did you know that a local book festival is actively looking for writers to fill their programme? NessBookFest have opened their pitching window which will close on January 31, with all details available at https://nessbookfest.com/pitch-your-event.

The secret, I am told, is to come up with a compelling event rather than a simple book promotion, so be creative!

I am no longer involved in the organisation and have loved watching what the committee are doing from afar, but I do remember a writer who had already done many local events to promote her recently published book a few years back. Instead, she pitched a couple of creative writing sessions inspired by family heirlooms (as her book had been) – it was such an original idea that she secured a space on the programme. Participants arrived with items which meant something to them and loved writing about something so personal.

What is your blank page for 2022? And what are you going to fill it with?

All I can say is: Power to your pen, and to mine!

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