Creativity Found

Debrah Martin – writes a novel as a challenge from her daughter, and now wins awards for her writing and helps others write their story

February 21, 2021 Debrah Martin Season 1 Episode 10
Creativity Found
Debrah Martin – writes a novel as a challenge from her daughter, and now wins awards for her writing and helps others write their story
Show Notes Transcript

Debrah Martin took up writing by joining a course to help her through a very tough time in her life. She is now an award-winning author, and a mentor and teacher for others who want to explore creative writing.

Links to Debrah's books
Chained Melodies
Patchwork Man
Falling Awake
Write, Publish, Promote: How to Write a Best Seller, Self-Publish and Keep Selling It
Savage Seas and Sfumato Skies: Painting Lyrical Landscapes in Brushstrokes and Words

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Music: Day Trips by Ketsa https://ketsa.uk/under Creative Commons License
https://freemusicarchive.org/music/Ketsa/Raising_Frequecy/Day_Trips

Artworks: Emily Portnoi emilyportnoi.co.uk

Other podcasts cited: The Creative Penn

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Claire Waite Brown:

Hi. Stay tuned until the very end to find out about a special offer from this week's guest. This time, I'm chatting with award winning author, Deborah Martin, whose foray into writing started with an evening class, but took her much further than she expected. Hi, Debra. Hi. You studied English literature and fine art at university. But your recent return to creative writing happened 11 years ago, can you tell me how and why you started writing?

Unknown:

Well, I only started writing really because sadly, it was because of a traumatic event in my life, my husband died of pancreatic cancer. So it'd been a pretty awful time for me and my my two daughters who were quite young at the time. And life for me at the time was really just revolving around work family sorting things out. And I just felt I needed a bit of space for myself. And the only thing I could think of to do was I can evening class. And as I went to a creative writing class, and completely new to what I've been doing, because at university, of course, it was critiquing fine literature. And so very different kind of way of looking at reading and so on. But I think that set me up for actually understanding what good literature was. So it's a great help of reading is the most amazing way of learning how to write in fact. So I went to this creative writing class, I wrote a short story, it was terrible. But I really enjoyed doing it. And it sort of set me off to do another one. And we had various little assignments to do. And by the end of it, I was actually starting to really enjoy writing and having ideas of my own. And it sort of set me off doing other things. I entered a little competition, I poems was cited for a recommendation and read out to the audience at the award ceremony. So that was like a massive pat on the back. It was very pleased with that. And I started thinking about writing longer things and short stories, and my older daughter was quite instrumental in in pushing me on with that, because we always had this little bit of a sparring relationship between us, you know, I would say, Oh, I think I might do this. And she'd say, Go on then. And, or she would say, I was interested in this. And I said, Well find out about it then. So she pushed me on. And via NaNoWriMo, which is National Novel Writing Month in November, which is like an online platform for people who are writers or would be writers to actually get into the grip of writing and actually try and write something like 50,000 words in November. So it's like an exercise in keeping going not procrastinating, doing some of it every day. Yeah. Which is the thing that we all do. We know we say we're going to do something, and we don't. And so I started on that. And I, by the end of it, I mean, she gave up before I did, and I kept going to the bitter end. And I actually wrote about 35,000 words, which a lot of it was rubbish. But some of it was okay. And what it taught me was that I could actually write far more than like a two or 3000 word short story. So it set me off on the path towards Novel Writing. And I continued on with a novel on a subject or topic, which actually was quite has quite a lot of social content to it. And again, Laura was instrumental in pushing me into it because we were discussing 12th night and gender issues because she was studying a level English. We had some fairly sort of academic discussions about it, but we also talked about gender issues and how genders scene in society and how it's used in society. And and then we started talking about people who had gender issues, you know, real gender issues, you know, transgenders. Yeah. And and I sort of Gailey said, that are being the most amazing novel to write you know, about somebody's journey. And she said, well do it then, as you'd expect. And so I did. And that actually turned into chained melodies, which is, which is probably the book I'm most proud of, actually, yeah, it meant it meant the most to me, because it actually has something to say, not just as a story, but also about a social issue. And an issue that people struggle with and who do when they do struggle with it, are immensely brave. I think they're dealing with it and the world and how the world sees and treats them. Yeah,

Claire Waite Brown:

you did a lot of research for that

Unknown:

I did, I was actually very lucky with that, because somebody put me in touch with somebody who's already going through that kind of transition. And, and they were very kindly talked to me about it. And then through them, I also found out about somebody else who, who talked a lot more about it, and I still stay in touch with them now. And in fact, they chose when they've completed their transition, they chose to call themselves Debbie, who's their new name. So you know, I don't know whether it was, you know, a compliment to me or not. But I mean, I felt that it was it was something that, you know, was was a wonderful kind of token. Yeah, we've we've done a little bit of this journey together. And I understood what she'd gone through, in going as far as she had at the time. And she was wonderful. She read everything I wrote, she put me straight where I'd got it wrong. She talked about a lot of very personal things, which a lot of people in our position do suffer from, you know, the, the ostracising, the prejudice, the treatment, bad treatment, that people get the abuse, the isolation, I mean, some of it is all for. So that's why I say to go through that and continue through that. Anybody doing that has immense bravery, I think. So the book guy I often when I'm asked what it's about, I say is as much about the story of somebody going through that process, as about bravery, in not being coward but facing life, as it is not not a moment of a single moment of bravery, which you know, people can pull themselves out and do it. It's that ongoing, being brave every day and facing life every day. Yeah, in the face of opposition. Brilliant,

Claire Waite Brown:

amazing. Let's go back a bit. Tell me about your experience of the art at school. And generally as a child,

Unknown:

well, I had parents who always encouraged me to read and my father particularly mmm father encouraged me with everything with with writing, in reading and painting. So he was the most wonderful model role model in that sense, always interested in everything, always happy, always had a story to tell himself. So a lovely man, both my parents encouraged me and took me to the library. Every week, I read all the way through all the shelves in the library, until we ran out about the library stock. But he made me me really love reading. And so when I went on to secondary school, I was really incredibly lucky to have a, an English teacher who was also quite inspiring and way they taught, and really encouraged me with a love of literature really got me interested in it. And and I think that's the key, really, isn't it that you to actually learn how to understand something and really engage in it when you're young. Yeah, it just sets you up for life. So I suppose I've been funnelled into it by already loving reading, but I started to understand literature, you know, even Shakespeare, and that sort of thing, which, you know, for teenagers is quite difficult. Yeah. But I loved it. And he encouraged me to go on to university. Pretty much the same with art as well, actually, I had encouragement with painting, art and painting as well through my father and through a teacher school. So that's where he went brilliant.

Claire Waite Brown:

So good, good experience for you. And where did life take you after university?

Unknown:

Well, completely away from it actually, when I came out of university in the 80s, and there was a, like a real dearth of employment at the time we were having one of our employment crises. So I actually delayed did an extra year in university up to do a postgraduate teaching qualification which has stood me in good stead, you know, later on in life, not teaching in schools. I don't teach in schools, but I do teach adult education. I teach writing, I teach painting, but what I ended up doing was actually going into the civil service because they offered jobs at the time. I had to come back from London where I had been at university and been living because literally, I ran out of money and I had no job. So I went back to live at home, which was a bit of a come down. And part of my job in the civil service or just a pure clerical position that they the civil service run management schemes and the graduate entry schemes as well. And I had, I was lucky to have a manager in the unemployment benefit office where I was working, who pushed me into the graduate entry scheme, because you knew I had a degree, and I got into it, and I got funnelled from it into the Inland Revenue. The last place on on Earth, you do want to end up have to give the Civil Services to it. It's training is immaculate. It's It's really good. And the people I mean, the whole thing about any job and anything you do is all about the people, isn't it? So yeah, make it I effectively did went through management programme, which put me through almost like another degree but in law, accountancy, bookkeeping, and all that sort of thing. Yeah, I dealt with a lot of very high level accounts, Public Accounts, it was quite stimulating, not might not really what I wanted to do, but it was very intellectually stimulating. And I came out of it really only when I had my children, and realised that this was my escape route, I didn't really want to stay in it. And I moved on to other things. And the other thing is, I moved on to work. Ironically, again, nothing to do with writing or literature. And I set up a children's nursery because I realised, when I was trying to find a way to go back to work, there were no nurseries around. There was just no way of providing for your children. Yeah, I was lucky. My mother and my father had my older daughter for a couple of days a week while I went back to work part time. But new increasingly becomes more difficult as they get older. I thought, well, you know, the answer is to do something about it. And the inner revenue, of course, it enabled me to understand how businesses work, and how accounts work and everything you would do with a business. So I set up a nursery and he gradually grew from a little preschool in the local scout Hall, to a three site kind of monstrosity. with them about 160 children on the books of going through, I I thoroughly enjoyed it, I loved it, because it was it was incredible working with children, seeing them come in, you know, tiny, but grow, grow. And they've soak information and knowledge on like sponges. And so it was another very interesting period of my life.

Claire Waite Brown:

Moving to Oxfordshire helps you to reshape your life and your writing started taking you in new directions. Tell me more about that time

Unknown:

when the move to Oxfordshire was that my older daughter come to Oxford University. And she was intent on getting me my younger daughter to move to Oxfordshire because by then have the father died. And we were kind of a little bit in limbo, because it was it was quite difficult. Picking up the threads of your life after such a major catastrophe really in it. And there wasn't a lot keeping me you know, I was thinking about moving on from the nursery anyway, because then government cuts and so on making it increasingly more and more difficult to keep things running. And I said, Okay, we'll come to Oxfordshire for one day. Look around some properties. If you find anybody who wants to move to we'll do it. If we don't, then that's it. And we did, we found we thought at the time we wanted to move to we didn't end up going there. There were one or two issues, but it kind of made the shift happen. Yeah. And I thought, actually, now is the time to just start doing something I love doing. Because I spent an awful lot of my life doing things I've had to do to you know, to keep my family going especially after my husband had died course you know, and I had to support my family on my own and bring my loans up on my own. And I thought you know, now's the time to do it and actually really make the most of something I I feel I've got something to put into because I did I felt like I've lived quite a lot of life by them as well. Yeah. And you put a lot of yourself and what you've experienced and what you know what other people experienced, understand it into what you write, I think and writing helps you understand it more as well because you have to explore what it might be like for somebody experiencing this or having to decide whether they're going to do that or make a choice. Yeah. And I felt you know, you got to that tipping point where you you've had a lot of experience maybe a lot of drama, sadness, tragedy, difficulties, choices to make. It does make you start to be able to put your yourself into somebody else's shoes more easily than You could have done if life has just flowed on really easily, never been faced with any difficult decisions. So I always think it away even though there have been times when life has not been good, it's given me something, it's there's been a bonus to it, that you have to try and see and use for yourself and for other people in the future. Kind of like to try and think I do that a little bit through writing.

Claire Waite Brown:

Yeah. What do you like to write about? People?

Unknown:

Really, I write thrillers, and I write psychological thrillers. But I also write what they call literary fiction, which is just a story of somebody dealing with the situation. But the similarity between them all that the central thing between them all is just people, you know, what do people do? How do people cope with things? How do people choose to do things, what happens when they choose to do them what their reactions are, and it's very much about what's going on inside us and how we managed to cope with it, rise above it, you know, make difficult choices, get past difficult places, situations in our lives. And athletes, what they say, with young adult fiction, you know, we have a lot of fantasy young adult fiction. But within it, there are real life situations. So what we've done is round it all up and package it all up as a fantasy, so it's more readable. But it's actually letting a young person, a teenager, start to understand how you cope with some of these difficult situations in your life and how you make choices and how you're the same as everyone else making the same difficult choices and coping with them. I do it by putting him into thrillers and mysteries into things where people are trying to work something out. You know, and I do like that, that bit like, you know, you have to try and work out what's going on? Yeah, because that's just like, teasing your brain. But yeah, I like that. Anyway, that's the aim. Yeah. Because we're, like, really examine what's going on inside us and how we deal with things? Or how

Claire Waite Brown:

you encourage other people to write their life stories. Why do you think that's important?

Unknown:

Writing is very much a way of also looking at yourself, and understanding yourself. And also understanding why other people behave as they do. So it can be a very cathartic experience to actually write about something you've experienced, and start to understand it through that. I've noticed that, especially with people who come on any of the courses and workshops and retreats I've done on writing life stories, autobiographies or biographies, because they've suddenly had an aha moment. So you know, well, I never really realised that was why they maybe did that, why that happened to me or, or why I felt like that. I mean, there also can be very difficult moments, because they, they do suddenly bring things up right up in front of you. And, you know, and you've got to deal with it. And there can be traumatic times that people have to deal with, I've had, in the past, I've had two or three people have said, I didn't realise that, you know, for instance, perhaps I was being abused them. So you have to be prepared for that. Luckily, I mean, I, I was trained in how to deal with people who suddenly realise that they've been abused or said that they've been abused, because I've had to deal with that with children, and dealt with social service and all kinds of things. For me, it was it wasn't something that worried me about dealing with that. I mean, anybody who is actually helping somebody or encouraging somebody to write a life story, should be aware that that is a possibility. But it's also a social history, isn't it? We lose so much of our life histories and our parents life histories, our other relations, life histories, our grandparents life history. My grandfather, lived through two world wars. He was a dispatch rider in the Second World War, I've got an amazing photograph on his bike, actually, his motorbike out in France. And yet, I don't know hardly any of things that happened to him. Because it wasn't passed on. We stopped being verbal storytellers as we used to. And those stories all used to get passed down, passed down, passed down. We've stopped doing that. So all those stories, which really bring history and life and how history has shaped life, and our culture and the way we go about things now, they're all being lost. And even many of my mother's stories. I don't know a lot of those and yeah, I incorporated one of them into one of my books, his story about the rag and bone man, it kind of rang a bell with me and I put the story or put a little snippet of it into the patchwork ban that would otherwise be lost if my mother hadn't passed it on to me those those little things which were real there and can bring those times in our lives and I history alive to people who weren't alive then. But having said that, a lot of people say I want to write a book, I want to write a story or I want to write a love story. And they don't know how to, you know, they have no idea how to start, they have no idea how to write it, how to deal with it, because you get very bogged down in the middle of it all. And they need somebody to help them. So I am now doing that with particular people, you know, people come to me, and we write a book together, you know, I help them write their book is their book, I have nothing to do with it when it's finished. But I've helped them along the way. And they've made use of the fact that I know how to write, I know how to write a book. And I know how to pull all those facts together and turn them into a story. And, and then they can take it away, and it's theirs. And it's then their family, their friends, whatever they want to do with it. It's a wonderful experience for me as well, actually, because I see them, you know, a lady, just working with at the moment, has just finished her last chapter, really, literally, last week, finished her last chapter. And she said to me, I could never believe I could have done this. And it's lovely, it's a relief, to help somebody achieve something that they wanted to do, but wouldn't have known how to on their own. So I get from I get something from it too.

Claire Waite Brown:

Brilliant. Good, good, good. So you've spoken about helping others. I'm just wondering whether your success and your helping of others has taken away any of the release you originally found, when you started writing? Do you still have that balance for yourself? And for others?

Unknown:

Yes, I do. Because, I mean, I'm in the process of writing a four book series at the moment, which has been hanging around for about four to five years, I've written bits of it, and then oh, I don't know that's not quite right, and then gone away, and, and then reshaped it and go backwards and forwards. And I'm actually back to doing it. And now it's suddenly starting to fall into place for me now. So this afternoon, my treat for myself will be the whole afternoon of writing another chapter in it. And I get to that the stage where I haven't, if I hadn't been writing, right, I suddenly feel I've got to write, I feel like I've got to write. And when I'm writing, it's just, it just takes me into another world. So now I've never lost it. And I don't lose it actually, when I'm writing with somebody, or having somebody to write their story, because every story is, is fascinating. And their stories are fascinating. And, you know, and as long as you allow yourself to go with it, you can become immersed in that story, too, you know, and, and having the ideas that prompt it to turn into, you know, something more technical direction, add more to it. They're always exciting for somebody else, when you're working with somebody else as they are when you're working for yourself. Yeah, so no, I, I don't think I will ever lose that. Actually.

Claire Waite Brown:

You've had your work published traditionally, but you prefer to self publish. Why is that? And how do you find the process of self publishing?

Unknown:

Well, the first book I had that was published, was a massive learning curve, because I found that it was it was amazingly excited to have it accepted. And then to suddenly find it, you know, a little physical copy of it in my hand, such a massive achievement. But after the excitement wore off, I started to realise that I had no control over it at all. And once that happened, so I had no control over the cover design, I have no control over the cover blurb, I have no control over how it was marketed, how it was marketed for where it is marketed. You put all that time and energy and creativity into writing something. And then when a publisher takes off of you, they literally do take it away from you. And that's it. Yeah. And all you get is like a small, small portion for artists. And it sounds like it's a very personal thing writing a book. I mean, because it is so much of you that's going into it your your perspectives, your understanding your beliefs, and the work you've put into researching things and your creativity as well. So just hand it all over to somebody and say, Well, there you go, do what you want with it. Now just give me a few pennies from time to time. Yeah, it doesn't feel right. And my first experience of self publishing was kind of forced on me funnily enough with change melodies, which because it wasn't my first book to be published, and I only self published it because at the time I'd finished it, the people are going to for research and discussion and for them to make sure that it was right. So checking its consistency and its credibility. They said did you know that there is a nationally touring exhibition of transgender portraits have been reached by shefford Primary Care trust, and it was to try and raise awareness of the issues that and also to, like normalise the fact that, you know, these, these people weren't odd, they were just people. And it was coming to Bournemouth, the exhibition was going to be straight across from the library, and into a big cafe bar, which was based underneath the library, which is very popular with everybody, from mums with toddlers, up to grandparents with toddlers. And, but especially the transgender in the LGBT community, because the two men who ran it were gay. And they were very, very understanding of everybody and everything. And it was a lovely atmosphere, the most accepting, comfortable, friendly atmosphere I've ever come across. And the exhibition, obviously, because of their links, was going to be partly on their walls too. And there was a big party plan and a big launch. And and they said to me, can you please not get your book published at the same time? I said, it doesn't work. Like they just say, oh, we'll get it published next week, then. Next up is no way you can do it. So in the end, I said, Well, I suppose it could be self published, because that you do have control over the timing. Because normally, with traditional publishing, it could take ages and ages. Yeah. And I said, Well, okay, we'll, we'll try it. So that was my first foray into it. And it was kind of quite a, you know, again, another steep learning curve, learning how to do it. And he came out at the time, it was part of the the launch of the whole exhibition. It was, it was really quite an amazing experience I met so many people have suddenly very unusual conversations. But it made me realise also that all of a sudden, you actually did have control over everything, you know, you have complete autonomy, you chose your cover design, you chose what you wrote about it, you choose how you marketed it, you chose what price it was available for, you chose who you put it to for review as you chose everything, and it felt right, this was your book, you should be doing all of that. Yeah. And of course, it raises all those other problems that you know, your writer, not a promoter or a marketer, or a cover designer or any of that. So you have to sort of like pulling resources from all kinds of places. And gradually, you start to understand where you can get those resources and that help from so it is a very steep learning curve. But increasingly, I also become aware, the more I've been involved in the whole publishing, writing, industry, and teaching, I suppose as well teaching it, that there are so many good books out there and good writers out there who never get past what they call the gatekeepers. So literary agents who your book has to go to to be accepted. And then the agent represents you to a publisher. They call themselves the gatekeepers. And I've talked to many literary agents who refer to themselves as the gatekeeper, we make sure you get the quality books. Actually, no, you don't. Because some of those books out there are terrible. We could all name some, we won't name. Some of them are terrible, it's just somebody found an angle to make them commercially viable. So they get thrust in everybody's face. Whereas there are some extremely good books out there, self published, independently published, that would never put another stand a chance, mainly, a lot of the time is because agents and publishers have already made maybe got a book underway in the publishing process, there is not dissimilar to the one that's being presented to them. And they say, well, we're not gonna have to have the same kind of thing going at the same time. So sorry, yours will fall by the wayside. But that doesn't mean to say that book that would fall by the wayside isn't just as valuable and just as good and wouldn't be just as enjoyed by the reading public. Yeah.

Claire Waite Brown:

With Rosie the golden retriever tap dancing in the background, Deborah told me more about how she can help others from their self publishing journey.

Unknown:

Now, I also offer a self publishing package for anybody who wants to come to me because there is there is a lot involved in it, obviously, a lot of technicalities involved in it. But you know, once you've got somebody who can just say, I know what to do, I can do this, you know, and I will do it the most economical way I can for you. So, at the end of the day, you've got the book out there and you do what you want with it after that. Now, you know, having experienced COVID I've taken a lot of the things I was teaching and put them into three online courses. Okay. So, one on life writing on Novel Writing, and one on self publishing, brilliance.

Claire Waite Brown:

I know that you don't measure your success by your sales figures. How do you encourage others to value their writing Saying that something I've always said right from the outset,

Unknown:

in every workshop class or anything I've ever done teaching or mentoring anybody is never, never think I'm going to go write a best seller, and I want to make a lot of money out of it, never think that's the reason for doing it, do it because you are going to get something out of it personally, you're going to get satisfaction, you've done it, you're going to get a sense of achievement, you've done it, you're going to learn a lawful lot by doing it because you know, you're going to learn about yourself and other people and also learn the technique of writing, and ultimately, maybe self publishing. And, and it's going to help you grow. And all of those things together. They're the things are really valuable alongside Yes, lovely if you get paid for it, if you sell some, but you know, the thing to do is never to just value yourself by how much you're paid. It's by how much you can do, and how much value it creates and gives to you as a person. And then you of course can give to other people as a person. Because, you know, whatever you gain for yourself, you should be able to give back to other people in some way. Even if it's just by being able to you talk to them about something or just write a book that they'd like to read. Yeah.

Claire Waite Brown:

There are many, many podcasts out there, it's difficult to know where to start. So I like to ask my guests for their recommendations. You're welcome.

Unknown:

Joanna pen is a self publishing star. I mean, she's been around for a little while. She writes mystery thrillers. But she is also amazingly generous with all the information she gives out to people and provides in all kinds of ways. And she has a podcast called the creative pen podcast, and that's p double n, that's excellent. And covers all kinds of things. And there's a gentleman called Mark Dawson, who got himself on the Forbes list for having done so we're self publishing, but he has a podcast called the self publishing formula. Abs that's very good. And the other one I think, is the alliance of independent authors ally, which I would recommend people have a look at anybody who's writing starting to write hoping to write properly and get books out there have a look at ally, they're very helpful. They cover all kinds of things. They have regular podcasts, revenue, webinars, and information as well on their website. So they're very helpful to Yeah, how can people connect with you? contact you, maybe take part in your courses, my website if you want to look at my books, and everything to do with my books and my paintings because I have got my gallery of paintings on there,

Claire Waite Brown:

I will never come back for that one.

Unknown:

But that you can find is www dot Deborah DB ra h martin.co.uk. And, but that will will shortly be redirecting you to another website, which is all to do with teaching how it can help you. ghostwriting mentoring, teaching and self publishing. And that's www dot book. hyphen works.co.uk. Anybody who very welcome to just email me at info at Deborah martin.co.uk. And it's lovely hearing from people and I love hearing people's stories as well so and seeing what I can do to help them.

Claire Waite Brown:

Fabulous. That's been really lovely to hear everything to hear your story. And yeah, and I'll see you soon.

Unknown:

Thank you very much.

Claire Waite Brown:

Creativity found is an open stage arts production. If you're listening on Apple podcasts, please feel free to subscribe, rate and review. If you'd like to help fund future episodes, you can buy us a coffee. That's Cato hyphen F is the online platform that helps creators receive financial support from fans of their work. Visit Cato hyphen f fi.com. Slash creativity found podcast. If you have found your creativity as an adult, and you'd like to talk to me for future episodes, drop me a line at Claire at openstage arts.co.uk on Instagram or Facebook follow at creativity found podcast where you will find photos of our contributors artworks and be kept abreast of everything we're up to. Don't worry, I haven't forgotten about the special offers. Yes, that's two special offers from Deborah just for you listeners receive 25% of any of Deborah's writing courses using the discount code 25 off Just visit WWW dot book hyphen works.co.uk slash all courses. If you would like Deborah to ghostwrite or help you edit your own book, contact her directly and mentioned this podcast to receive a 10% discount