Daily Journal Prompt #267

Photo by Robert Doisneau

September 30, 2012: He had a vision.

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A Place for The Night Sky ~ The View from the Keyboard of Sarah Hammond

Sarah Hammond is a hot new YA and children’s author who lives in the UK and studied in Bath Spa University‘s impressive and very successful MA in Writing for Young People. On my last trip to England, I wanted to buy a few copies of Sarah’s brand new debut novel, The Night Sky in my Head, and so I stopped in at Waterstones. Sold out. I walked around the corner to Mr. B’s Book Emporium where they told me they had just sold three copies that morning, and only had one left. Success! Occasionally compared to Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, this book will be enjoyed by not just the young adult audience it was originally intended for, but by readers of all ages. (You may have noticed Night Sky on the table of our last View contributor, Shawn Shiflett.) 

Beyond being just a fine, fine writer, Sarah is an active supporter of writing and reading for young people. She is a regular visitor to schools, and supported a young person’s writing contest to coincide with the launch of her new book. We need writers like this, don’t you think–the kind who give back to the community and encourage a love of reading and writing in us all?

Let’s take a peek, then, into Sarah Hammond‘s writing space.

Sarah: Here is a picture of my desk, my writing space. Well, to be utterly truthful, this is a slightly misleading statement. It’s one of my writing spaces and perhaps not even the most important of them either. Of course, my computer is here and I have tapped out lots of words and stories on the keyboard at my desk. However, I find that different stages of the writing process require different spaces. Does that sound strange?

When I first hatch a story idea, I am on the move, not sitting at a desk at all. I’m just observing life and responding to things and people around me. Story ideas grow from life, it seems.

Even when I’m ready to put something on the page, I still don’t head for my desk. For a long time I had a serious office job and this has left me with an unhealthy reaction to sitting in a formal office: it makes me too left-brain analytical. When I try to capture the essence of a new character or story at a desk, I sort of seize up or edit myself so harshly that I can’t write. So the second phase of writing, for me, is to sit somewhere comfortably, looking out the window perhaps, half-daydreaming to encourage the story to come out. My place of preference (much to my chiropractor’s horror – I have a bad back) is sitting on my bed, computer or notebook on my lap. In all honesty, this is my favourite writing space.

Once I’m a little more certain of my story, the process moves to my study as shown in this photo.

This is where I wrote a lot of my debut teen novel, The Night Sky in my Head, which was published by Oxford University Press in July 2012. To find out more about my writing, why not visit my website (www.sarahhammond.co.uk) or ‘Like’ my Facebook page for my news and events ( www.facebook.com/SarahHammondAuthorPage).

Anyhow, here’s a little taster of my writing from the desk in this picture in the meantime…

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Extract from Chapter One, The Night Sky in my Head

Timmer and me have been locked out again and I’ve forgotten my key, so we’re going to spend the night in the shed. I bet Mum thinks I’m already in bed but I’m not – we went for an extra-long walk today because Timmer is four today. He wags his tail. He likes it in the shed better than in the house. I do too. It’s quiet and safe in there. I don’t have to listen to lots of noises jab jab jabbing in my head.

The moon is a bright white eye in the sky tonight. It makes the night-garden different to the day-garden. There is scuffling in the shadows. Things are hiding in the dark. The leaves on the apple tree are silver and they whisper secrets to each other when the wind blow. I shiver, even though it’s warm, because I know about secret things.

Timmer barks once and walks down the garden, wagging his tail. He wants to go to the shed but I have to check on Mum first.

The windows are like silent TVs in the dark. I stand and watch. I can see Mum at the kitchen table. There’s make-up down her face so she’s got long black tears down her cheeks. She’s drinking beer out of a bottle. She’s got the photos out again and she’s wobbling. I hate it when she’s like this.

I take a step closer and put my hands on the glass.

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(Sarah’s top tip: the Book Depository – www.bookdepository.com – offers free shipping worldwide if those outside the UK would like to read more of the story.)

→Thanks so much, Sarah, for taking the time to give us this little tour. So looking forward to reading more from you. Oh, and for those of you who want to support Mr. B’s in Bath, you can also order Sarah’s book from them. As always, thanks for reading! -PMc←