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In this installment of 'How I Write', Royal Literary Fund writers discuss how they cope with the urge to procrastinate, touching on issues such as background noise, the usefulness of deadlines and the perils of having room with a view.

'I've used my nightie in workshops with serious-minded business people, in schools with cynical sixth-formers, in warehouses with fork-lift truck operatives wearing high-vis vests, in hostels with former offenders. I've woven stories around it so often.'

Mary Colson defends the honour of much-derided Milton Keynes, and explains why, for her, it's an inspiring environment.

Martin Day introduces the landscape around Yeovil, and explores how childhood vistas underpin our mental landscapes and writing.

Penny Boxall introduces us to Shandy Hall, the intriguing home of Laurence Sterne on the North York Moors.

'I wasn't always a serial killer. It took twenty years of hard cuts, brutal edits and fatal backspaces before my particular psychosis was fully formed. Nowadays, my poorer darlings are killed off before too much time is invested, or words written.'
'New York City was clearly where I ought to be, not stuck on a farm in rural Buckinghamshire! No, I should be strutting up Fifth Avenue, drinking cocktails in rooftop bars, and listening to jazz with the beautiful people at Elaine's.'
'The days of the monocultured genre writer is long gone, if it ever really existed. Writers carry a gloriously untuned choir of voices in their heads.'
'It's a habit I don't have — re-reading. It's simply too risky. It's not the text you remember differently, but the person you were when you experienced it first.'
'I walk, and I watch. I make small purchases to hear voices; this way, I learn that sperm have a sense of smell, a Barista's tattoo is a mid-arm mash-up of coffee plants in honour of her job.'
Mary Colson on her enduring love of facts, and how this led her to write nonfiction books for children.

Jonathan Tulloch takes us to a Cumbrian riverbank, circa 1983, for a picnic eagerly awaiting the end of the world at half past three (please pass the ham sandwiches.)

Mary Colson faces down the aimlessness and lack of purpose that takes hold when a book has been finished, but hasn’t yet found its place in the world.


Mary Colson takes us to Olney in north Buckinghamshare, her childhood home and the site of an historic friendship between a poet and a slave trader.

Simon Rae takes us to Great Tew in north Oxfordshire, an estate village that began with lofty aspirations but descended to decrepitude.


Mary Colson speaks with John Siddique about the value of children’s non-fiction and the unusual constraints involved in writing it commercially, her love of writing for screen and stage, and the right way to teach writing and nurture children’s voices.

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