Get to know… Angelina Melwani

I had just got re-married, sold my business and moved from Hertfordshire to Haringey. The hypercritic squatting in my head – and my hormones – were haranguing me about not having written the novel I had been meaning to write since my 20s. I needed something else beginning with H: help. So I tapped at the keyboard and it wasn’t long before my fingers found the golden garden, the treasure trove, the crucible of creation (- I’ll stop now) that is Writing Room.

Here were a community of talented tutors who led me from a barren desert, through a wilderness, which opened on to veritable Italianate garden of ordered productivity in the form of a series of 6-week creative writing courses that I could dip into during the year, whenever it was convenient. There was no scary long-term commitment and what’s more the writing courses seemed extraordinarily good value compared to all the others I’d seen.

I started with one called Inspire Your Writing which did what it said on the tin; noticing that others did not fall asleep after reading extracts from my work allowed me to entertain the thought that maybe it was worth writing more. Since then I’ve completed several rounds of Prioritise Your Writing during which I’ve met many writers who are at various stages of wrestling their work onto the page. We read and critique each other’s work and I’ve found both giving and receiving feedback invaluable whilst writing my own novel and being ‘First and Last Fart-Arounder’ ( – yes, that’s my official title and I like it – ) of my husband’s. He’s just published his second novel in a crime series and I’m taking some credit for that, because, why not?

It’s been wonderful to hear the experiences of those at Writing Room who are at a more advanced stage and share in their joy at finding an agent and we learn so much from each other about our processes of writing a novel and trying to get published. And I get a real confidence boost from just spending time among talented creative writers whose work I enjoy reading.

Last year, I submitted a few chapters into a competition with Mushens and Harper Collins and after I was miraculously short-listed, the tutors and my friends at Writing Room spurred me on to continue writing, even when I felt adrift and that I couldn’t possibly produce another sentence… One thing ingrained in me from the time I’ve spent at Writing Room is that a crap sentence is better than no sentence and, more importantly, will often lead to a sparkling one.

The encouragement, camaraderie and the friends I’ve met there has made Writing Room one of my highlights of the last few years. I can’t imagine I would be up to 75,000 words without it. Sometimes I can’t allow myself to believe that my work is engaging, funny and moving. But that’s okay because Alison and Kate and the other attendees I’ve met along the way who have read my work and shared their own believe it for me, and I know it to be equally true of theirs. This is the biggest gift for me. Writing Room has evicted the hypercritic in my head, and given me room to write.

EXTRACT from How To Divorce A Psychopath:

At first it was funny, cheeky, harmless. When they were dating, he’d book a restaurant and somehow give the impression he was a Hindi film actor, resulting in a nicer table and a couple of free cocktails. After she married him, and the acts became more frequent and grandiose, Selina soon realised there was a fine line between acting and lying. He ran an import export business. He had partnerships and investments. He knew Hrithik Roshan through his cousin in Seattle who was his good friend.

Selina wasn’t a liar, or an actress and had no desire to co-star in his imaginary drama. So, when they were together at a party or among new friends who weren’t aware of his predilection for exaggeration and self-aggrandisement, she found herself automatically gravitating away. She was hypersensitive to the signals that presaged the spewing of whoppers, for etched into her subconscious was the knowledge that his whoppers and his rage were inextricably linked. She became a skilled vulcanologist. Interpreting hardly detectable puffs of smoke, tiny cracks, slight shifts in the earth, as signs of impending explosion. And she would start to move, physically work her way around the conversation and out, orbit getting wider and wider, to try to disentangle herself from the sound waves that might send even single words from the conversation into her ears. It was difficult not to yield to the non-verbal signs that might belie her shame. Shaking her head and shuddering, or say, at a particularly brazen lie, pinching the bridge of her nose. She’d seek another conversation among a different group in the gathering and immerse herself as deeply as she could to drown out the all-pervading, sulphurous stench of Kush when he was about to blow. Or if there was no other conversation available she would find the loo and sit there for 7 minutes. Or at the very worst, she could help in the kitchen, doing dishes, wiping down worktops.

Now, a few words of Kush’s voice danced over the hubbub, “few things happening… top secret… big deal… Jeff Bezos.”

Selina turned the music up, grabbed an oven tray and scoured hard.