Yes its true – my writing shed is a pig sty! Not the dirty, smelly, grubby kind of pig sty that might immediately spring to mind (though there might be a few day old mugs of tea and apple cores lying around) but a building that was originally built as a pig sty. Now it is now a lovely sun filled shed that has been converted from its original purpose into a space where I can escape the day to day chaos of three children , four cats, a large dog, three sheep and all the clutter and noise that accompanies them. In fact a pig sty is usually a good term for what I leave behind in my Welsh cottage when I walk down my garden path to go and do what I love best – to write. Writing is my treat, my passion, what I yearn to do as I spend most of my days running around being a mother and trying to run a small pottery business from home.
“My writing shed is a pig sty! Not the dirty, smelly, grubby kind of pig sty that might immediately spring to mind (though there might be a few day old mugs of tea and apple cores lying around) but a building that was originally built as a pig sty.”
When I started writing my first novel A Perfect Home (published by Penguin in the US 2012 and Accent Press in 2014) I took any opportunity to write, often writing long hand in a note book while I sat beside my youngest son’s bed waiting for him to fall asleep at night or sitting in the car waiting for my older children to come out of school or standing at the cooker waiting for the fish fingers to come out of the oven for tea. So desperate was I to get the words onto paper I would get up at five am and write at the kitchen table willing three small children to stay asleep till at least six o’clock. Consequently I was usually exhausted, late to pick the children up from school, many fish fingers were burned and I was extremely thankful to early morning CBeebies for its ability to distract the children while I grappled with that last illusive sentence before the pre-school rush began.
By the time I started my second novel, Heartstones (published by Accent Press 2014) the children were a little bit more independent and I’d learned to type on my lap top using two fingers, usually sitting at my kitchen table or in the garden – Welsh weather permitting! In fact it was the weather or more specifically the rain that made me make that first step towards the pig sty. A heavy shower disturbed an unusually prolific bout of writing and unwilling to go back into the chaos of my house I decided to try writing in the converted pig sty that for ten years had been my pottery studio. I have been producing hand painted pottery for over twenty five years, that was and still is my day job – though to write full time has always been my dream. I had moved from the pig sty to a larger purpose built pottery studio a few months previously, leaving the pig sty empty apart from one of my kilns. That wet afternoon I took my lap top into my old shed. It was warm and cosy from the kiln and as I sat watching the rain fall onto the Brecon hills that surround my home I realised I had found the sort of peace and quiet I had been longing for every time I started to write.
Now my old pottery studio has become my writing shed. Maybe that is why Heartstones is set in a pottery studio and revolves around the tangled romances and family secrets of two potters a generation apart. My new novel Stargazing is partly set on a Welsh hill farm, not too dissimilar
from the little farms I can see in the distance through my window. It has a Welsh character in it called Nesta who reminisces about the lush green landscape of her childhood and is really just describing the view from my window!
I try to write for at least an hour during the day – usually between putting my pottery kiln on at two o’clock and leaving to pick my children up from school at three thirty (I am still always late for that!). I then decamp into my kitchen to write after they go to bed – though now my children are fifteen, fourteen and eleven the time I start doing this gets later and later. When I do start my flow is often punctuated by one of them coming down stairs to inform me that they need the ingredients to make flapjacks at school the next day or that they’ve lost their games kit – again! As the lure of television or bed beckons I bribe myself to keep writing with the prize of a large G&T after so many words – or a biscuit or a slice of cake if the words seem especially difficult to find. I try to keep going till about midnight and promise myself I’ll go straight to bed but I have a terrible habit of turning off my lap top and sitting in a sleepy daze thinking about what I have written for at least another half an hour, sometimes making notes which are illegible in the morning!
My days of getting up at five am are long gone (I never seem to have the energy now!) but I still try to wake up early at weekends to write before anyone else is awake. In the winter there is nothing lovelier than crunching over the dark, frosty garden in my slippers (or this winter wading through the flooded garden in my wellies!) and going into my cosy kiln -warmed shed. As I write in the blissful silence I am aware of the dawn breaking over the hills outside the window and feel as though I have achieved something for myself before my day of running around after the children, dog, cats, sheep and painting pottery has begun.