Wintering by Katherine May: A Review

Wintering: How I learned to flourish when life became frozen

by Katherine May


I count myself extremely blessed to have gained early access to a copy of Katherine May’s ‘Wintering.’ Not only is it a VERY beautiful book, I found reading it an incredibly healing experience. So relatable, honest and authentic and it resonated with me on a very deep level. I enjoyed the gorgeous prose, the poignancy of personal story regarding the author’s own periods of wintering as well as the interesting nature aspects. Having endured periods of ‘wintering’ myself, I feel this book has presented me with a fresh perspective and some new tools to take back in with me when it next returns. It’s left me feeling inspired and comforted in equal measure – and definitely less alone. I will be turning to this book again and again and I just know that almost anyone who reads ‘Wintering’ will find some comfort, healing and inspiration. 

Reading this actually made my Christmas!

Wintering is out 6th Feb – one month from today – look out for it everyone; it’s a life-changer.



The most gorgeous proofs of my ACTUAL book have arrived!

Holding a copy in my hands is the most amazing feeling – best Christmas present EVER!

This is something I’ve wanted for a long time. Never give up on your dreams.

Huge thanks to HarperCollins’ HQStories and my wonderful editors Charlotte Mursell and Katie Seaman. So very grateful to my amazing agent Sarah Hornsley at the Bent Agency for taking a chance on me and to all of my family and friends who have been endlessly supportive.

I’m so excited for the 28th May 2020 when the final copies will be ready, on shelves and ready for you lovely readers. ❤

Part 2 – Brewing a Novel (and Draining the Dregs)

In the months leading up to embarking on my creative writing MA, I began writing something I would later name my ‘practice novel.’

Although I cringe when I read it back now, writing that novel alongside my studies was absolutely crucial to the creation of the novel I later sent out to my agent.

I made many mistakes in my first book – I had very little in the way of a solid plan and no real consideration for structure, narrative or character arcs.

I did love my (very rough) plot idea and I enjoyed going on a journey into the unknown with my characters. Reaching the end and knowing I could achieve the word count of a full novel was also really encouraging. I tried to polish and pretty-it up, and was really excited about the idea of ‘getting it out there,’ despite knowing deep down that I was not quite ready – that this was not the ‘right’ novel for me to make my debut with.

I spoke to a trusted mentor and tutor on my MA who gently imparted some wise words into my over-excited and impatient mind. She advised me not to sell myself short by sending work out into the world that wasn’t ready, just because I wanted it ‘now.’ She encouraged me to believe in myself, and in the bigger picture of a long-term writing career.

I’m so glad I took her advice. I went home a little deflated and overwhelmed by the work my book still needed. I knew in reality that it would require a complete rewrite.

Perhaps one day, I will tackle that rewrite (when it’s had plenty of space to breathe,) but the kernels of another story began to take root – a story that felt just right for the ‘now.’ It was a story I knew would enable me to say what I wanted to; one that was from a world in which I’d had some true experience.

This time the words flowed with greater ease (most days!) The characters felt like real people to me and I could visualise what was going on around them with more clarity than before.

The first draft was written in six months. Then almost as soon as I’d written the last paragraph, I attended a residential weekend on my course that revolutionised the way I saw storytelling. By then, I had already looked briefly at structure, narrative arcs and character development. But learning the art and science behind the reader’s experience of story and realising the importance of hitting the right notes at the right times in order to keep the tension sustained, helped me to see that yet again, my work would need a restructure. This time, I knew my story was worth it and set to work.

I allowed myself to experiment and go ‘outside the box’ in terms of how I would normally write. I included elements I wouldn’t usually use (such as angels and demons in the background of the story!) Many of those aspects were later edited out, but introducing them in the first place gave the novel (and my approach to writing) a freshness that helped me to keep going.

Top tip: if you feel stuck with your work in progress – try throwing something in that is completely unexpected. It may work brilliantly, leading you to keep it -or it may not – but it could get you out of a ‘slump’ and stop you from feeling stuck.

Excellent examples of suprising elements that alter the tone of otherwise ‘this-worldly’ stories can be found in novels such as ‘Himself, ‘The Hoarder’ and ‘Things in Jars’ by Jess Kidd.

After having my new book-baby beta read by a few trusted friends and family members, I made some suggested adjustments and edited and edited and edited again. I then began the exhilarating yet terrifying process of submitting to literary agents. If you’d like to know more about that part of the journey and how I found the process, please look out for my next post: ‘Submitting to Agents (& Getting THAT Call.’)

From Pen & Paper to Publication: A Writer’s Journey – pt. 1

Over the next few weeks, I will be publishing a series of articles that chart the journey from my first attempt at a short story, to developing my skills, writing a novel, signing with a literary agent and getting a two-book deal with HarperCollins’ HQ Stories.

I have wanted to write a novel since I was a child – a child who not always just had my nose in a book, but my whole being! A new book was the highlight of my week because I knew the value of being whisked away to other worlds at the turn of a page.

I spent my childhood writing Narnia-esque stories in Happy Shopper notebooks – then my teenage years and busy adult life pushed my dreams to the back of my mind.

Occasionally, I would say things like:
‘I’d just like to write a novel – I don’t mind if it gets published or not,’ (and other lies I told myself!)

Then circumstances in my life changed drastically. I gave up my career as a midwife to care for my husband who was having an a crisis with his chronic mental health conditions. In order to deal with the sudden loss of self-identity, I turned to writing.

Writing welcomed me back, dusted me down and taught me some lessons. I wrote some short stories and ramped up my reading.

One day, my husband said to me: ‘I have a good feeling about this writing thing – it makes you happy. What’s to stop you from taking it further?’

I looked into courses and found a distance learning MA in creative writing at Canterbury Christ Church University. After applying and accepting a place, I read every novel and every writing craft book I could fit into each day. The support and guidance I was given on the course was invaluable and I would highly recommend this route to anyone looking to take their writing to the next level.

I do know that academic study isn’t everyone’s cup of frapachino. There are many practical reasons why this may not be possible for everyone – but there are local writing groups (both face to face and online) and a whole load of peer support for writers in the Twitter and Facebook communities. I owe so much to my twitter pals in the writing community, as daily interactions with them has taught me so much about the writing process (look out for my future post: ‘Joining Writing-Twitter: How to Get Started and Grow Your Community.’)

In the mean time – here are some excellent writing craft books that have helped me to develop my storytelling skills and process:

Wired for Story by Lisa Cron
Into the Woods by John Yorke
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Other upcoming posts:

Part 2: Brewing a Novel (And Draining The Dregs.)

Part 3: Finding an Agent (And Getting THAT Call!)

Part 4: Being on Submission (And Pressing Refresh!)

Part 5: Getting that Publishing Deal (And Believing it’s True.)

Jessica Ryn

Jessica Ryn is the author of ‘The Extraordinary Hope of Dawn Brightside,’ published by HarperCollins imprint: HQ Stories in May 2020. Her writing is represented by Sarah Hornsley (The Bent Agency.) Jessica is a former midwife and homeless resettlement worker. She has recently completed her MA in Creative Writing at Canterbury Christ Church University, and her stories have been shortlisted for the Kimberly Chambers’ Kickstarter Award, Wordsmag and the Val Wood Prize for Creative Writing. When she’s not scribbling away at book two, Jessica can be found meandering through the woods, reading stories that pull on the feel-strings and eating yoghurt-covered skittles. Jessica lives in Dover with her husband, two children and their high-spirited springer spaniel.